By Jacob Miller
Sixteen losses in a row would be enough to make most teams crumble and give up on the season, but for the Iowa softball team, it ended up being the ultimate motivator going into conference play.
The Hawkeyes, 7-7 in the Big Ten (good for sixth in the conference), have won six of their last seven games.
Instead of being in the basement of the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes proved their ability to hang with some of the best of the Big Ten.
It has yet to be determined if Iowa is a pretender or contender, however. But with that said, the Hawkeyes are not a team for Big Ten opponents to sleep on come tournament time.
Earlier this season, Iowa’s ability to turn its season revolved around the capacity of the senior nicknamed “Chip” Mullarkey.
After a dry spell during the 16-game losing streak, Mullarkey stepped up against conference opponents. Defensively, she leads the team in putouts (241) and rarely do playable balls get past her. On offense, she’s been contributing more in the batter’s box.
She hit the walk-off game-winner against Nebraska and leads the team in most statistical batting categories.
The saying “defense wins championships” remains cliché, but it does hold some merit — look no further than Iowa, which locked down.
In their six victories, the Hawkeyes allowed an average of 2 runs per game with only 7 errors in total during that span. This consistency on the defensive end takes a lot of pressure off the Iowa pitching and batting.
A costly error in the seventh inning in the third game against Rutgers was the only thing in Iowa’s way of seven wins in a row, but one play does not define a unit. Overall, this team makes minimal errors (especially as of late), and if they can avoid making them in costly situations, things will be just fine going forward.
Hot in the circle
The reason the defense has had so much success lies within stellar pitching.
Allison Doocy earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors with a 3-1 record and a 0.78 ERA over seven days. She also leads the team in strikeouts, with 99.
Redshirt senior Shayla Starkenburg has also given batters trouble. On Tuesday, she led the Hawkeyes past in-state rival Iowa State, only allowing 3 hits and a run.
These two continue to be the top dogs in the bullpen for the Hawkeyes, and they are both lethal in their own ways.
Iowa figured out how to win from behind.
In three of their games, they did not score first. This was an issue in the early parts of the season, since the Hawkeyes struggled to put a lot of runs on the board while holding teams to fewer than 2 runs.
Now that the defense is fine-tuned and playing consistently, the batting caught up to it. This allows the Hawkeyes to not fall into immediate panic whenever they fail to score first. If this team continues to play consistent softball, they can prove that they will be contenders come time for the Big Ten tournament.