Iowa pitcher Shayla Starkenburg throws a pitch during the Iowa-Iowa State softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones, 2-1, winning the final game of the Cy-Hawk series for the year. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Softball faces challenges in Big Ten tourney

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By Jess Westendorf

jessica-westendorf@uiowa.edu

The Iowa softball team has done something that a lot of people said it couldn’t do — qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.

“We need a lot energy and that fire to drive you through,” senior Kaitlyn Mullarkey said. “I think we are really hungry for it, we got left out last year, and that is something that has sat with us this whole year. We are ready to make a big impact in this tournament.”

After being left out of last year’s tournament, many critics said at the beginning of the season that Iowa couldn’t rebound, but the Hawkeyes proved them wrong and will make their 20th Big Ten Tournament appearance.

Iowa enters as the No. 11 seed and starts off the tournament today facing off against No. 6 Wisconsin at 6 p.m. at the Wilpon Complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

If Iowa wins 

If Iowa wins tonight’s first battle against Wisconsin, it will advance to the quarterfinals and face No. 3 Ohio State, which has a first-round bye.

Wisconsin has an overall record of 32-14, 11-11 in the Big Ten. The Badgers swept Maryland in a three-game series May 5-7.

This will not be the first time that the Hawkeyes and Badgers have met this season.

On April 7-9, Iowa took on Wisconsin in Madison. The Hawkeyes lost the series overall but was able to pull out a win in the second game.

Everything the Hawkeyes learned and saw during that game will help them going into tonight’s game.

The team already knows how the Badgers work as well as how hard they play. Iowa can go into tonight’s game with some expectations of what they need to do to pull off a win.

If Iowa wins, it will face a rematch with Ohio State.

Once again, the Hawkeyes would be in the same predicament they are in now. They lost the overall series but pulled off a 4-2 win in the finale.

“We want to stick to our game plan,” freshman Lea Thompson said. “We want to take the fight and passion we had against Northwestern and take it into the Big Ten Tournament. If we can bring in that kind of fight, it will take us further than a lot of people expect us to.”

If Iowa loses

If Iowa can’t pull off a win, then its season is over. The tournament is single elimination, so one loss and the Hawkeyes are done.

The Hawkeyes would finish with a 19-32 record, 9-14 in the Big Ten record.

“I think for our team, we need to go out and attack early,” senior Shayla Starkenburg said. “These games are going to be more intense than normal, since it is single elimination, and you want to keep winning. We need to come out and get going right away.”

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