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Hawkeyes still looking to supplement Blank's production

BY CHARLIE GREEN | APRIL 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa softball is hoping its 15-hit, 8-run showing in Thursday’s loss to Western Illinois is the start of something new.

“It shows what we’re capable of,” junior Holly Hoffman said. “I think in preseason, we faced some tough pitching, and that’s only prepared us for Big Ten play, so I’m fully confident in our offense. I know we can play like this against anyone.”

Despite playing more games than anyone else in the conference, the Hawks came into Thursday’s game ranking 11th in home runs, 12th in hits, and 13th in runs and slugging percentage.

With their .257 batting average and .329 on-base percentage, they rank dead last in the Big Ten.
The numbers are shocking, given the season senior Megan Blank is enjoying.

The three-time all-conference selection is at it again, sitting second in the Big Ten in hits with 45 and batting .417 in the process.

The drop in production after Blank is monumental, though sophomore Sammi Gyerman is batting .308 with 119 at-bats, the second most in the Big Ten. She added 3 hits Thursday night.

“It’s not like that’s my goal; I’m just trying to my job and do my role and it kind of just plays out,” Gyermann said. “Thing maybe aren’t falling for the other girls, and they’re falling for me, but we’re all working just as hard.”

Hoffman has given the Hawks a boost offensively as well, hitting .289 in addition to blasting a 2-run homer on Thursday.

The two have been reliable for head coach Marla Looper’s squad, but are nonetheless a large step below the production of Blank — and it gets worse from there.

Of the remaining players with more than 60 at-bats, sophomore Claire Fritsch is the lone Hawkeye at the .260 mark. After that, four players are hitting under .221.

The lack of balance has stifled the Hawks in close games this year, as has clutch hitting and the ability to move base runners.

On Wednesday, all of these issues came to fruition in one of the team’s toughest defeats this season.

Sophomore Shayla Starkenburg threw a 1-hit gem in Des Moines against Drake. Although the Iowa offense recorded five more hits, they left eight runners on base in a 1-0 loss.

If anything, Thursday’s game at least saw the offense rebound from the lackluster performance the night before.

The team tallied 15 hits and 2 homers in the contest. Gyermann went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, while sophomore Kaitlyn Mullarkey added a home run.

The hope for the Hawkeyes is that those hitters who had success Thursday can carry that into the weekend series with Illinois and finish the remainder of the conference schedule more consistently on offense.

“I think Sammi has that opportunity in front of her,” Looper said. “She kind of was on a high and then was trying so hard that she limited herself. Tonight, she did a better job relaxing and trying to get pitches she could hit.”


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