By Anna Kayser
The Iowa softball team jumps right into its regular season this weekend at the Mardi Gras Tournament in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The Hawkeyes open up the tournament against Illinois-Chicago at 11:30 a.m. today, followed by Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m.
On Saturday, Iowa will start the day with its biggest challenge of the weekend in No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Hawkeyes will then take on Evansville at 7 p.m.
Iowa will face off against Chicago one more time at 10 a.m. Feb. 11 to finish the weekend.
A lot of the excitement surrounding this tournament comes from Hawkeyes having the opportunity to play in real competition, as opposed to scrimmaging against themselves.
By facing off against four different opponents in the three-day span, the Hawkeyes have a change to assess what they have worked on to this point.
“Sometimes, putting it into action against an opponent that doesn’t really know you allows us to realize that we might be better in some areas than we feel and areas that we need to improve in that we might already think we’re pretty good at,” head coach Marla Looper said.
Playing five games this weekend, as well as playing in upcoming tournaments, will give the team the chance to move players in and out of positions to try to find a solid lineup.
It’s also likely that the lineup will shift over the course of the season.
“Some people we feel eventually might be in a certain spot in the order might not start the season that way to kind of get their feet underneath them and get comfortable in that situation,” Looper said. “Every day is a new day, and so there probably is going to be some mix in the lineup just to see who fits best and where we all fit best to benefit our team as a whole.”
As for the rotation for in the circle, this week in practice was a big factor in figuring out who might be going in different spots for each game.
However, having a plan is never set in concrete. Every pitcher will be ready to go on, even if it’s not their “turn,” in case of relief situations.
“I feel they all have the ability to go, and I have the belief that they will respond well,” Looper said. “The challenge is when you are faced with someone, their job is to disrupt what you’re doing. Our challenge is how do we command the zone, how do we attack the zone, and how to we keep the offense off-balance.”
There will be some rough patches in these first few games with adjustments to different lineups and pitching matchups, but for the most part, the rust from the offseason has been worked off in practice.
“We’ve had a lot of live situations, so we can kind of get rid of that [early season rust],” sophomore pitcher Allison Doocy said. “I definitely still think there are things that we are going to have to learn and grow from.”