Gopher pitching stifles Hawks


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Iowa softball has seen better days.

The team capped off its series at No. 12 Minnesota with a 9-0 mercy-rule defeat on Sunday, likely happy just to put a miserable weekend in its rearview mirror.

“It’s not fun standing there after being swept by run-rules all games,” head coach Marla Looper said. “It’s not that they’re not giving all their effort, because they are. We’ve got to continue to make adjustments.”

It took just five innings of action for the Gophers to win Sunday’s bout and complete the sweep.

Over the three games, they outscored the Hawks 25-0.

And the games were remarkably identical, too. Each one ended in five innings because of the mercy rule. Minnesota pitchers dominated the double-header on April 25, holding Iowa batters to 1 hit in the first game and 3 in the next.

Not much changed for the Hawks on Sunday. Facing one of the country’s best hurlers in Minnesota sophomore Sara Groenewegen, the group mustered just 2 hits and struck out nine times.

The Gopher’s pitching prowess showcased itself over the weekend; Minnesota used three pitchers to collectively put up an astounding 24 strikeouts compared with just 1 walk.

Junior Erin Erickson and senior Megan Blank recorded the team’s only 2 hits in Sunday’s game.

They were also the only Hawkeyes with more than 1 hit in the series, notching 2 apiece.

Although sophomore Sammi Gyermann extended her reached-base streak to 18, Iowa’s offense finished with just 6 hits in the series. And its pitching didn’t make things any easier.

Sophomore Shayla Starkenburg gave up 9 earned runs on 6 hits and 4 walks in just four innings of work on Sunday. After getting shelled for the second time in three games, she falls to 14-21 on the season, and her ERA in Big Ten play rose to 6.72.

After holding the Gophers scoreless in the first inning, a pair of early walks in the second set the table, and Minnesota built a 3-run lead heading into the third.

Five more runs in the third and 1 in the fourth provided more than enough insurance for the Gophers to hold off the struggling Hawkeye offense.

“Unfortunately, our pitching staff hasn’t allowed us to get to the sixth or seventh inning to give our hitters another at bat to make adjustments,” Looper said.

After the sweep Minnesota is 41-8, 15-3 in the Big Ten. Iowa drops to 16-37, 7-13 in conference action.

With just three league games remaining, the sweep by the Gophers seals a sub-.500 fate for the Hawkeyes in the conference.

Next weekend, the team will cap off regular-season play with a three-game series against Northwestern in Iowa City. Fresh off a four-game stretch that has seen it outscored 35-2 (including an -April 22 loss to Missouri), Looper is looking for any sort of takeaway from the Gopher series to help her squad rebound.

“If you don’t learn from this experience, you just wasted moments and days and opportunities in your life to be better,” Looper said. “I think the big thing is that we learn from it, and I know our girls have.”

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

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