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Softball has sense of urgency

BY CHARLIE GREEN | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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Given the way both teams have struggled, the three-game series between Iowa and Wisconsin beginning today in Madison could have huge implications for both teams going forward.

“I don’t normally put more emphasis one game than the other; the first game of the season is just as important as the last game of the season,” head coach Marla Looper said. “But there is a sense of urgency that we need to have for this weekend going into this three-game set.”

The Hawks come in at 3-8 in Big Ten play, ranking 11th in the conference. Wisconsin enters at just 1-7, providing Hawks a golden opportunity to gain ground in the conference standings.

With the Big Ten Tournament looming on May 7-9, both teams are fighting to stay in the running for a spot.

Only 12 teams make it, and the teams that are in a position for a berth are still battling for the best seed possible.

This is the position that Iowa finds itself in. If the season ended today, it would be in the conference tournament but pitted against a top seed.

“Record-wise, this is probably one of the more important weekends were going to face,” junior Erin Erickson said. “We need to get out of the bottom four teams if we want to get a good spot in the tournament.”

Both teams have struggled to score runs this season. Wisconsin ranks 12th in the Big Ten with 176, while Iowa trails right behind with 175; only Purdue has fewer, at 171.

Wisconsin makes its living on the base paths. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in steals, and it’s not even close. With 95 swiped bags on the season, they are 20 ahead of the next best team — Minnesota with 75.

Badger speedsters Maria Van Abel and Marissa Mersch are two of the top three base stealers the conference has to offer.

“They’re fast; they like to slash-and-dash offensively,” Looper said. “Defensively, we just have to take care of the ball because they’re going to move, they’re going to run. There’s no doubt.”

In this facet, Iowa is the polar opposite. The team has just 15 stolen bases on only 18 attempts — both Big Ten lows. Wisconsin’s small-ball attack should keep the Iowa defense on its toes.

The Badgers enter the action with a 5.09 earned run average compared with Iowa’s 7.42, statistically posing as another advantage for the Big Ten foe.

But Iowa’s bats have been hot recently. After putting up 29 runs in three games at Illinois, the Hawkeyes can use the Wisconsin series to improve their standing for the tournament if they keep that momentum rolling.

But with Wisconsin’s speedy offensive attack, look for Hawkeye to remain on high alert throughout the game when runners get on base.

“I think hitting as much as we can and keeping our defense sharp,” freshman Claire Fritsch said. “If we take the weekend, we’ll be out of the bottom four, which is really important for us.”

Follow @charlsgreen for news, updates, and analysis on the Iowa softball team.


Iowa v. Wisconsin
When: Today-April 12
Where: Madison


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