Hawkeyes drop two against No. 14 Minnesota

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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On a chilly day at Pearl Field, the Iowa softball team wanted to grab more victories over a ranked opponent after defeating No. 23 Northwestern on April 6.

But the Hawkeyes didn’t.

Iowa (10-20) was shut out not once but twice against the No. 14 Gophers (30-5), 2-0 and 7-0. It was the first time since March 19 that the team was blanked. Iowa lost that game, 4-0, to Texas State.

“Shayla [Starkenburg] and Kayla [Massey] did a good job today. Both of them did what they are expected to do,” Megan Blank said. “We did not make the plays we are expected to make. I think we need to execute better offensively and there are two different ball games if we do that.”

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In the first game, only Blank and Brianna Luna reached base with two hits apiece. Luna has been on fire since Iowa started its home stand. Heading into Tuesday’s games, Luna had a .538 batting average with a .625 on-base percentage at home.

“She’s doing exactly what we’d hope she would do and what she’s in the lineup to do,” head coach Marla Looper said. “She’s the sparkplug in that leadoff spot, and after the first at bat, she isn’t really leadoff anymore. She’s worked hard through her career, and I’m glad to see it come to fruition a bit.”

Luna, a senior out of Indio, Calif., has careers highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. She attributed her success to her mindset.

“I’m only taking it one at-bat at a time and one pitch at a time. I feel like I have been seeing the ball really well and I’m just trying to do the small things,” Luna said. “I’m just trying to put the ball in play and let everything take care of itself.”

Despite Luna’s hot hitting, Iowa couldn’t capitalize with runners on base; they left eight stranded in he first game.

Starkenburg started the second game and finished with a complete game, giving up 9 hits and 1 earned run in the 7-0 loss. Defense is something that has been a problem for the Hawkeyes and that problem continued as they gave up six unearned runs.

“Shayla got us out of some big jams,” Looper said. “[She] pitched well enough to keep the game closer and get a win but, defense and offense have to work together to be able to do that and unfortunately we didn’t have that tonight.”

Tuesday marked the last two games of a six-game home stand. The next step for the team is to get back at it on Friday when it travels to Nebraska for a three-game series. The Hawks will take some things away from these games and look to bring their conference record back above .500.

“We know that we can get it done, fix the errors, executing on offense — it’s all within ourselves,” Luna said. “We’re hoping we can take that into practice and into the series against Nebraska.

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