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Hawkeyes can't clear bases, fall to Illlini

BY JORDAN HANSEN | APRIL 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Three times during its 12-7 series finale loss to Illinois, the Hawkeye softball team left the bases loaded, failing to muster a single hit.

Iowa (12-30, 3-8) went 0-for-4 at the plate with the bases loaded during the last game of the three-game Big Ten series with Illinois (14-21, 5-4) and left 13 runners on base in the game.

“It is frustrating; it’s frustrating for the girls, too,” head coach Marla Looper said. “It got that point of, ‘Oh, I got to make something happen’ because when we win and have bases loaded, it’s some of those same people did a nice job of hitting the ball in the gap.”

Those 13 runners left on base were more than the previous two games against the Illini combined; they left four on in their series-opening win and seven in their loss on April 4.

Three Iowa players were left on base three times, including first basemen Kaitlyn Mullarkey.

“Everyone’s going to be in that spot when they leave someone; everyone knows how it feels,” she said. “Obviously, we want to get our runners in, but we can’t get down on ourselves. We have to get back out on D, makes some stops, and then get up to get hit again.”

Clutch hitting has been an issue all season for Iowa, but it has hardly been more apparent than it was against Illinois on Sunday.

“There’s added pressure when the bases are loaded and you know you have to have runs,” Looper said. “When you’ve got runs, and you’re way ahead, and you don’t have to have them as much, it’s a little easier to do that.”

However, the lack of hits when they needed them most was not the only reason for the Hawkeyes losing the series.

Shayla Starkenburg got the start in the circle in Sunday’s rubber match and was up and down throughout the game. She went 6.1 innings, getting 7 strikeouts, but she also hit two batters.

The first batter she hit in the third inning was costly; it loaded the bases. After allowing the next two batters score runs via a walk and a single, the third hit a grand slam.

“When I hit somebody, I know that I missed a pitch,” Starkenburg said. “I kind of stay on my same pitching track. I don’t really change anything, just make sure that I get my pitches to go where I want them to go.”

After that point Starkenburg tightened up a bit and was not able to do quite the damage she had done in the innings before.

“A lot of pressure gets put on a pitcher. In that inning we gave up 6 runs; it was 2 walks, a hit by pitch, and a home run, can’t play defense behind that,” Looper said. “But she gets herself in those situations sometimes and she tries to tighten up and be too perfect — no different than the offensive piece of, ‘I’m trying too hard.’

“You don’t have control over where she’s at in the box; you have control over the pitch. After that, it’s done.”

Follow @JordyHansen for news, updates and analysis about the Iowa softball team.


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