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Softball notebook: Gyerman shining, walks an issue for Hawkeye Softball

BY CHARLIE GREEN | FEBRUARY 19, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa softball team has had an up-and-down start to the 2015 season.

The Hawkeyes are 3-5, and coming off an 0-3 weekend at the hands of no. 1 Florida and North Carolina State.

While the game with the Wolfpack got away from the Hawks, the Gators shut them out twice — both contests ended with an 8-0 score.

With still over a month before conference play begins, the team is assessing both the positives and negatives of their early-season struggles.

Pitching woes remain salient, but hitting has seen strides from unlikely places.

Walks a problem early on for Hawkeye pitching

Eight games into the season, walks have plagued Hawkeye pitchers. On the year, they have given up 32 compared to just 18 for opponents.

"If we had to give a report card on our pitchers, we're failing in getting ahead and taking control of an at bat," head coach Maria Looper said.

Redshirt sophomore Shayla Starkenburg has been impressive as the team's ace, but walked 11 batters in two games over the weekend. On the season, she has walked 23 while striking out 35 hitters.

Freshman teammate Ashley Yoways walked five in four innings of work against No. 1 Florida, but previously had only surrendered two in nine innings pitched.

"Obviously I need to work on spotting the ball a little better," Yoways said.

Looper stressed the importance of getting ahead in the count, but even when Iowa has done so this season, they have still struggled to close it out.

"Unfortunately there's times we have gotten ahead, going 0-2 and we end up walking a hitter," she said. "And that's more of that killer instinct the pitchers need to have continuously.

Gyermann emerging as an offensive threat

One of the concerns coming into the season was finding productive hitting from someone not named Megan Blank, who has started off the season with a .333 average.

Redshirt sophomore Sammi Gyerman is leading the team with eight hits and a .348 batting average, and is currently riding a four game hitting streak. Two of those games, mind you, came against the top-ranked team in the country.

"She's just been pretty consistent in practice," Blank said. "I've liked everything I've seen. She's been aggressive early in counts and making good contact."

Good things happen when you put the ball in play according to the three-time all Big Ten selection Blank, and Gyerman has done just that thus far.

She showed signs of growth last year before an injury ended her season, and has taken her game to another level in the early stages of her sophomore campaign.

If she keeps on streaking into conference play, it figures to take a lot of pressure off of Blank, as well as pitchers Yoway and Starkenburg.

Clutch-hitting a necessity

With questions surrounding the pitching staff, run support could make or break Iowa's season.

The problem is that runs aren't being scored. To date, they are being outscored 49-26, while only being outhit 49-41. In terms of doubles and triples, the Hawkeyes own an 11-9 advantage over opponents.

But when the team gets runners in scoring position, batters are failing to drive them home.

"When we get [runners in scoring position] we need to take advantage of that," Blank said. "It just takes one clutch hit to bust something open."

Follow @CharlsGreen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa softball team.


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