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Softball falters against Missouri

BY JORDAN HANSEN | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Midweek games have not been kind to Iowa (16-34, 7-10 Big Ten) this season, and that trend continued in a 10-2 run-rule victory by Missouri (32-10, 11-7 SEC) on Wednesday evening in Columbia, Missouri.

To be fair, however, the Hawkeyes knew they were headed toward a red-hot Tiger team that was on a six-game winning streak and that had run-ruled their previous four foes.

Shayla Starkenburg got the start in the circle for Iowa and was up and down throughout the game. She threw 5.1 innings, giving up 8 earned runs, and she walked 7.

However, the defense committed 2 errors, one in the first inning that led to several runs and one in the sixth that was also costly.

“It’s unfortunate that we gave up those 3 runs in the first inning,” Looper said. “Had we not had that error, I think they score 1, maybe 2, but it’s 1 run on that, not the 2 with that error.”

Offensively, the Hawkeyes were again carried by shortstop Megan Blank, who had 2 of Iowa’s 3 hits and hit her ninth home run of the year in the first inning, scoring 2 RBIs.

She is now hitting .450 and registered just her ninth strikeout out of the year against Missouri’s Paige Lowary.

“She’s really zeroed in right now,” Looper said. “She’s not trying to do too much, and early on in conference she was trying to do too much at times, and now she’s just kind of relaxed and doing what Megan does.”

The only other hit registered by Iowa against the tough Missouri pitchers was a single from second basemen Claire Fritsch.

Lowary and the starter Tori Finucane combined for 8 strikeouts and after giving up the 2 Iowa runs in the first, did not allow another through the final five innings.

The Tigers totaled 11 hits, including an impressive 4-for-4 performance at the plate from center-fielder Taylor Gadbois.

With Missouri being the Hawkeyes’ last nonconference game of the season, Iowa finishes the season with a 9-24 record in such games.

Certainly not ideal, but Looper still believes there’s something to take away from this game as the Hawks prepare for their last two conference series of the season.

“This game tonight actually prepared us a little bit for Minnesota,” Looper said. “Seeing some hard throwers who throw the ball up and get it in the zone, and hopefully, seeing that will benefit us.”

With the Gophers leading the Big Ten in strikeouts and also having the fewest number of walks allowed, it could be a test for the Iowa offense.

The defense will likely also have its hands full — Minnesota is also a very solid offensive team. However, Starkenburg has been fairly good for the Hawkeyes as of late, and Looper sees similarities between the Tiger and Gopher offenses.

“On the pitching side, they’re not a whole lot different, either,” Looper said. “We just have to keep the ball in the park and on the ground and let our defense play.”

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


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