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The Box Score: Iowa slipping behind the competition in Big Ten

BY JOSHUA BOLANDER | APRIL 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Forty-two games into the Iowa softball season, and we have finally reached the point where over-analyzing statistics to develop theories on a team ends, and the numbers instead become an accurate reflection on why the squad has struggled or had success.

In Iowa’s case, the struggles have outweighed the positives, with Marla Looper’s Hawkeyes in the bottom half of the Big Ten conference standings with only 15 wins overall this season.

Team Batting Average:  .241 (11th in the Big Ten)

To be fair, Iowa’s bats have been better recently, but there is no hiding the team’s struggles at the dish this year. The Hawkeyes are near the Big Ten’s basement when it comes to hits (255, 11th) and are dead last in several categories including runs (121), RBIs (105), and on-base percentage (.314).

Even with last season’s first-team All-Big Ten shortstop Megan Blank raking to the tune of a .339 average and Briana Luna emerging as another potential source of power (.322 average, 3 home runs in 2014), no other players on the Iowa roster crack the .300 mark for batting average.

If you don’t score, you don’t win. The 2014 Hawks are learning that the hard way.

Team Strikeouts: 244 (12th in the Big Ten)

One might be quick to point out that the lack of success at the plate might have something to do with a number of great defensive teams in the conference, but putting the ball in play has been more of an issue this spring than perhaps any other Hawkeye team, with the Hawkeyes whiffing at the plate a combined 244 times and infielder Michelle Zoeller leading the Big Ten in strikeouts with 32.

Iowa’s aggressive style (last in the Big Ten in walks) has backfired for the most part, with the Black and Gold also in the conference’s cellar when it comes to plate appearances in 2014.

Fielding Percentage: .949 (12th in the Big Ten)

The offensive end hasn’t been the only eyesore this campaign for the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s .949 fielding percentage ranks last in the Big Ten, and the team’s 65 errors is third only to Purdue and Indiana, which have both have nearly 150 more chances than Iowa.

There are three Hawkeyes who have committed double-digit errors (11, 13, and 18).

Yikes.

Marla Looper career wins: 99

The fourth-year coach has struggled to push the program to the next level in 2014, after leading the Black and Gold to 30 wins in 2013 — the most wins for the Hawkeyes since finishing 42-16 in 2009.

Looper will finish under .500 for the first time since arriving in Iowa City, after going 27-24 overall in her first season in charge and just missing out on a Big Ten title in her second year with the program.

The former Florida State alum lost her 100th career game on April 26 to Indiana in Bloomington.


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