Softball continues to struggle

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa softball shortstop Megan Blank was at a loss for words after the Hawkeyes were shut out by Michigan State on Sunday.

“This has been a pretty embarrassing season,” she said. “That’s pretty much all I have to say.”

Despite showing they are more than capable of competing with any team they step on the diamond with (back-to-back wins over No. 13 Missouri just a week ago), the Black and Gold may have dug themselves a hole too deep to get out of against the Spartans, their 10th loss in their last 14 games.

“If you can’t be consistent with your attitude and effort, then the rest of it you can’t expect to be consistent, either, because there are so many variables involved,” head coach Marla Looper said. “If you’re not doing the little things consistently involved with how you go about it and your attitude with it, then you can’t expect the other parts to happen.”

The combination of that inconsistency, a dismal team batting average (.243) and two pitchers with ERAs over 5 may result in one of the program’s most cherished records falling before the season’s end, a streak that has lasted for almost three decades.

For 28-straight seasons, the Black and Gold have finished above .500. But with a 13-25 mark through 38 games, and only nine games and the postseason left to play, a record that some of the teams players aren’t even aware of is all but certain to fall.

“I knew that it had been a while since Iowa has had a losing season. I didn’t know exactly how many,” senior Michelle Zoeller said. “We just have to keep looking forward.”

After a brief period of success in which Looper’s squad racked up 18 runs in just two games before their three-game set with the Spartans, the Hawks bats went cold. They were shut out twice in the series with their East Lansing foes.

“I think a lot of girls have a little too much going on in their heads when they’re up to bat,” Blank said. “Just trying to free up your mind as much as possible.

“I honestly think we have a really good team, but we just haven’t been playing to our potential. If we put everything together at the right time for the Big Ten Tournament for a good starting spot. Postseason is all about peaking at the right time. I still think we have a shot.”

Perhaps the silver lining this season is Looper’s career coaching record. She came into the season with 84 wins and has been slowly closing in on 100 wins. She now has an overall record of 97-97 and while the players might not have much left to play for this season, they can still play for their coach.

“I hope we can just get [100 wins] for her because she’s very deserving of it,” Zoeller said. “I don’t think our season reflects how good of a coach she is. I want her to get it.”

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