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Solid pitching awaits Iowa softball in West Lafayette

BY JORDAN HANSEN | APRIL 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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When Iowa the Iowa softball team (14-32, 5-9) heads to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a three-game series with Purdue (26-16, 5-7), it’ll be tested against one of the best pitching staffs in the Big Ten.

The Boilermakers boast the second-best ERA in the conference, largely because of pitchers Lilly Fecho (16-11, 1.64 ERA) and Gina Snyder (6-1, 2.77 ERA). Lexy Moore (3-3, 3.22 ERA) also has seen a good bit of time in the circle this season.

“We’ve talked a lot about their pitchers,” junior catcher Holly Hoffman said. “What their pitcher has, and in practice we set up the machines according to her pitches, so we’ll be prepared.”

Iowa will likely see Fecho the most over the series. She has pitched 175.0 innings this year, second most in the conference after the Hawkeyes’ Shayla Starkenburg. In fact, it’ll likely be those two dueling for most of the three games.

Pitching is certainly Purdue’s strength, but its Achilles heel is hitting. The Boilermakers’ .288 batting average is 12th in the Big Ten, only above Iowa and Michigan State.

While the Hawkeyes have seen an uptick in their batting numbers since the start of Big Ten play, it’s still been their defense, especially the infield — which leads the conference in double plays — that has been the best thing they have going for them.

“We know we need to play defense,” head coach Marla Looper said. “I talked to our pitching staff about letting the defense play, and if a runner gets to first, so what? Give them a ground ball, and you give yourself an opportunity to play catch.”

Solid defense paired with several timely runs will be the recipe for success against Purdue this weekend. They Hawks will also need strong play from both Starkenburg and Ashley Yoways in what is shaping up to be a make-or-break weekend for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa, Purdue, Indiana, and Maryland are tied in the conference standings with 5 wins apiece.

However, the Hawkeyes have two more losses than any of the other three schools.

With their last two Big Ten series against Northwestern and Minnesota — both top-tier conference teams — there is urgency to win now.

“We need to go in and win this series," Looper said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we need to start with Friday night’s game and just take care of game one.”


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