Softball gears up for Buckeyes

BY JORDAN HANSEN | MAY 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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A crucial Big Ten series awaits the Iowa softball team when it takes on Ohio State at home this weekend at Pearl Field.

Three games in three days will determine the Hawkeyes’ (15-27-1, 8-12) postseason fate as they face a talented Ohio State squad (26-23, 11-9) that sits one spot ahead of them in the Big Ten standings.

“Ohio State is coming in here hot after sweeping Northwestern last weekend, and we have to take care of that,” head coach Marla Looper said. “Plain and simple, we have to take care of ourselves and our teammates, which is the most important thing.”

If Iowa could sweep Ohio State, both teams would finish the season with 11-12 records, and the Hawks would own the tiebreaker for the seventh seed.

A more realistic version of this weekend would have Iowa winning one or two games and probably being awarded an eighth seed depending on how struggling Penn State (14-31, 5-15) does this weekend against Illinois (20-25, 4-16).

It is important to note here that Penn State has lost eight-straight games and will probably not sweep equally awful Illinois, but anything can happen in a very strange Big Ten this season.

Even with their postseason dreams at least partially hinging on their performance this weekend, Looper’s focus remains on the Buckeyes and the three remaining conference games they have yet to play.

“Big Tens are our chance to move on in postseason, but we can’t look forward to it yet,” Looper said. “We have to take care of Ohio State and use these opportunities to set ourselves up better for the conference tournament.”

The Ohio State series comes on the heels of a very disappointing midweek outing versus Northern Iowa, in which the Hawks lost by a single run after coming back from a 9-run deficit.

Junior Megan Blank, who hit two home runs during the rally, believes that her team still can do some damage this season.

“It’s our last weekend of conference, and it’s at home, so it’s our senior weekend, and we just want to take it one game at a time,” she said. “The opponent shouldn’t matter, and if we take care of ourselves and do what we can do, we can beat just about anyone.”

Despite the general negative feeling around the season, there certainly still is some confidence in the dugout that something can be salvaged in this season.

Even though the season is not what Looper envisioned, the series this weekend could be a jumping off point for either the tournament or next season. Regardless, the head coach will surely get the most out of her seniors in their last outing as Hawkeyes.

“I’m looking forward to it being a nice weekend; looks like the weather is supposed to be all right, and we should have some May flowers due to all these April showers,” Looper said. “I’d like to send our seniors out, at home, with a sweep.”

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