Hawks to close regular season against Wildcats

BY CHARLIE GREEN | MAY 01, 2015 5:00 AM

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Coming off a sweep at the hands of Minnesota last weekend, Iowa softball will conclude the regular season against Northwestern beginning today at Pearl Field.

Including the Missouri game on April 22, Iowa has been outscored 35-2 in its last four contests.

“I don’t know that we’re changing a whole a lot; I think we ran into a buzz saw with both Missouri and Minnesota, they’re both very good ball clubs,” head coach Marla Looper said. “Where we have to sharpen up for sure is in the circle and offensively make quicker adjustments.”

At 25-19, 12-7 in the Big Ten, the Wildcats enter the series in fifth place in the league. Iowa comes in at 16-37, 7-13 in conference play — which puts the team in 12th place.

The Hawks seem like a lock to slip into the Big Ten Tournament’s final spot, but they recognize this series as pivotal in regrouping from a disastrous performance a week ago in Minneapolis.

In that series, the Gophers dismantled the Hawks, outscoring them 25-0 and winning by the mercy rule in each of the three games.

In order to gain momentum and improve seeding heading into the postseason, the team knows it will have to be better across the board.

On May 3, the team will honor its lone senior, Megan Blank. The shortstop from Southern California has put together one of the greatest careers in Hawkeye softball history.

Currently second in the conference in hits (69) and batting average (.448) and owning a slugging percentage of .753, the shortstop looks poised to earn her fourth-consecutive All-Big Ten selection.

Sophomore Sammi Gyerman, who hits in the spot before Blank, rides an 18-game reached-base streak entering the series. The two have been essential parts to Iowa’s offense in 2015, and for a team that’s scored just 2 runs in its last four games, its two biggest weapons will be counted on to produce.

“We just need to trust in our ability, buy into the process, and keep working through that process,” Gyermann said. “Batting is consistent, and it’s contagious also. So it’s just a matter of someone getting that hit and keeping that rolling.”

Northwestern boasts three of the Big Ten’s top hitters in Andrea DiPrima (.414), Sabrina Rabin (.401), and Andrea Filler (.398).

Facing one of the tougher pitching challenges it has all year, the team needs a zoned-in Shalya Starkenberg from the circle.

“I think I just need to work on my spots and my locations a little bit better,” the redshirt sophomore said. “I think we’re approaching this series the same way as we normally do, kind of attack the zone more and getting ahead in the count, and let the defense work.”

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

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