By James Geerdes
Two weeks ago, Iowa softball dropped three-straight games to a below-average Maryland team. Then, Iowa bats were slow, and errors prevalent.
This past weekend, Iowa looked like a completely different team. Head coach Marla Looper and her squad took three games from a 16-13 Wisconsin team, the first sweep for the Hawkeyes since last year’s series sweep of Nebraska.
This season, Iowa will have another opportunity to sweep the Huskers, who are currently 27-13. Nebraska will host the 18-17 Hawkeyes today in a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m.
“Last time we met Nebraska here, it was super exciting,” senior Angela Schmiederer said. “We’re just hoping to carry that over. It’s a pretty big rivalry between our two schools, so we’re just hoping to stick to the process. Stick to the plan. Hit good pitches, and do what we can on the field. If we do that, we’re going to get some wins.”
That process finally showed against Wisconsin.
Iowa mounted comebacks against the Badgers in Games 2 and 3. In the second, Iowa was trailing by 3 runs in the bottom of the seventh when the squad collected 4 runs to win, 4-3. Game 3, Iowa trailed, 3-2, in the top of the seventh but rallied with 3 runs to win, 5-3.
“I’m excited that we were able to get that done [on Sunday],” Looper said. “We haven’t swept teams in a while. To do that against a good Wisconsin program is not easy to do. They came out ready to fight and battle today, and we knew we’d have a battle on our hands. We stepped up, and we took a couple blows. But we punched back, got the knockout punch.”
Iowa’s hitting has been on-and-off all season, and the team is battling a mere .235. Against Wisconsin, though, the team’s average spiked to .320.
“The girls were doing a good job at times letting the ball get deep and hitting balls they’re supposed to, instead of swinging at bad pitches [and] letting the pitcher fool us,” Looper said.
Nebraska presents another opportunity for Iowa to showcase its newly found hitting. Husker ace pitcher Kaylan Jablonski has a 2.77 ERA and allows her opponents a .266 batting average. If Iowa sees the second pitcher, Olivia Farrell, they will have an even greater chance to hit the ball. Farrell has a 3.58 ERA and allows a .314 batting average.
The real challenge will be pitching for Iowa. After her performances against Wisconsin, sophomore ace Allison Doocy earned her second Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award. As a team, Nebraska is hitting .272, fourth best in the Big Ten.
“Nebraska’s got a really good offensive ballclub, and they swing a good bat,” Looper said. “But I think we can fool them a little bit. We need to be able to go in, and play our game, and not be too consumed with them. But we need to know how to adjust and attack when the opportunity presents itself.”
With Doocy in the circle, and Iowa’s process starting to click, the team feels prepared to take on Nebraska in the midweek doubleheader.
“Doocy continues to step on the field and give our team the best opportunity to win,” Looper said. “Even though the challenge was greater this weekend, she was able to get out of jams. She’s got more confidence this year than ever, and when she’s rolling, the team feels confident playing behind her.”