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Softball set for Spartans

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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An important Big Ten matchup awaits Iowa this weekend at Pearl Field: Michigan State will visit this weekend for a three-game series.

Iowa (12-23) is coming off an impressive offensive showing against No.13 Missouri. The Hawkeyes swept the Tigers in a two-game series for their first series win since late March against Wisconsin, when they took two of three games from the Badgers.

“It’s really awesome, especially coming off of our weekend in Nebraska to get these two wins against Missouri and move into the Big Ten series this weekend,” sophomore Whitney Repole said. “It’s going to be really helpful for our team, and we’re just going to build on it and roll from here.”

Iowa’s offense exploded on Wednesday for a combined 16 runs in two games — its best offensive performance this season. Repole and first baseman Kaitlyn Mullarkey hit home runs in a display of Iowa’s power in its first multi-home-run game of the season.

Head coach Marla Looper has seen Mullarkey’s hard work and is happy she has finally started to contribute more despite her struggles at the plate.

“She’s been working hard and watching videos. She’s been trying to find ways to give herself a chance to succeed,” Looper said. “If you don’t put in the time, you can’t expect it to happen. She did a nice job of sitting and waiting on a pitch she can drive.”

But the biggest question will be if Iowa is able to carry its momentum over to the weekend series.

“It’s a lot of momentum, but we’ve got to carry it,” Looper said. “We have a day of practice and then Friday is a new day, and they still have to get rest, get up, and have that same energy, attitude and effort that they had today.”

Against Mizzou, the Hawkeyes picked up their tempo, which was largely the reason for two of their best wins this season.

“We need to be in control of the speed of the game and the tempo, and I think when we can maintain tempo and be in control, we can take care of our opponents, and I think we’ve got to do that with Michigan State this weekend,” Looper said.

Michigan State (10-28) comes into the series after narrowly getting a victory over Western Michigan, 1-0, on Wednesday. The Spartans are last in the Big Ten with a 2-12 record, having only notched wins against Indiana and Purdue.

After playing 10-straight games in which an opponent was ranked, Iowa takes on a Spartan team that is not only unranked but has a losing record, something the Hawks haven’t seen since they played Drake on April 2.

However, that’s no reason for Iowa to sit back. To avoid a losing season, the team needs to win 10 of its last 11 games to get back up above .500 — where the team has ended for 28-straight seasons.

“Every game is important at this point,” shortstop Megan Blank said. “I think they’ve been struggling like we have, so it will definitely be a good match, and after [Wednesday’s] games, it will be a confidence boost going into the weekend.”


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