The Box Score: Hawks searching for offense in postseason

BY CHARLIE GREEN | MAY 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Despite outbursts at times in 2015, Iowa softball’s offense has ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten throughout the season.

Batting average is the most critical of stats for the Hawkeyes. The team ranks last in the league with an average of .261; Michigan State is next to last with an average of .277.

That’s the largest gap between two teams adjacent in the batting average rankings, but it’s not the only stat indicative of the Hawks’ offensive struggles.

The team is also second-to-last in the conference in runs (226) and slugging percentage (.395), and it is worst in on-base percentage (.352).

There have indeed been promising sparks of explosiveness, and the offense has often not had the luxury of a dominant pitching staff keeping opposing hitters at bay.

But there have also been games in which the offense has failed to get anything going. That can’t happen in the Big Ten Tournament; run support is going to be key.

Assuming Sammi Gyerman and Megan Blank are their usual selves at the plate, beating Rutgers on Thursday figures to hinge on a more thorough offensive effort. If some of the squad’s inconsistent but talented batters connect, the Hawks have a chance to make a run.

However, some Iowa’s key hitters have struggled immensely in their last 10 games.

Kaitlyn Mullarkey

The first baseman has fewer at bats than most of her fellow starters, but the sophomore is one of the Hawks’ best hitters despite recent struggles.

She’s third on the team in slugging percentage at .494 and second in on-base percentage at .445.

Her average rose as high as .311 after the Wisconsin series ended on April 12. Since then, however, it has dropped to .265.

Mullarkey is 2-for-20 in her last 10 games.

Holly Hoffman

As the team’s catcher, Hoffman’s impressive repertoire with pitcher Shayla Starkenburg isn’t the only thing she be counted on in the postseason.

Like Mullarkey, she was hitting .311 after the Wisconsin series. And, also like Mullarkey, her average has since dramatically dropped — all the way to .250. She’s one of the older members of the team, and that experience gives her an edge at the plate in win-or-go-home competition.

Hoffman is 1-for-26 in her past 10 games.

Claire Fritsch

Fritsch’s ability at the leadoff spot is crucial; she has the opportunity to set the table for Gyerman and Blank.

The Hawks have taken solace in knowing the two stalwarts consistently produce, but that production is maximized when runners are on base and in scoring position.

The sophomore from Round Rock, Texas, ranks third on the team in runs with 31 but is hitting just .234 on the season and has struggled as of late.

Fritsch is 4-for-27 in her last 10 games.

Allie Wood

Wood is perhaps the most intriguing player heading into the tournament.

She’s struggled as much as anyone in 2015 but recently has come on strong.

On Sunday, stealing the show from Blank on Senior Day, the right fielder hit her first career grand slam and added another 2-run blast — making her 4-for-7 with 8 RBIs in her last two games.

But the postseason is a different animal, especially for freshmen who will experience increased level of competition for the first time. Wood ranks second on the team in home runs with 7; her power-hitting skills are vital for a group that does not hit a whole bunch over the wall.

Despite her recent success, Wood is still just 6-for-26 in her last 10 games.

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

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