By James Geerdes
Following a loss to Nebraska on April 10, Iowa needed to earn some wins against the 19-14 Minnesota squad.
The weekend didn’t go as planned. The bats were silent. The pitching was lackluster. And, perhaps most importantly, the fielding was poor.
Iowa lacked in the fundamentals department in their three weekend losses to the Gophers. Minnesota hitters put the ball in play, and Iowa couldn’t get outs, resulting in two mercy rules and a 6-2 loss.
Iowa’s first game of the series got out of hand quickly. Minnesota put 3 runs on the board in the top of the second inning and fended off Iowa batters through three more. They used the fifth and sixth innings to put up 2 and 3 runs, respectively.
Minnesota ended the game with 8 runs and a mercy-rule win. But only 5 of its runs were earned. Iowa fielders committed 2 errors, and the Gophers nabbed 3 stolen bases, contributing to runs in the second and fifth innings.
“We didn’t make the adjustments we needed to tonight,” head coach Marla Looper said following the loss. “Right now, we need to work the process and do some different things to give ourselves an opportunity for a different result.”
The second game was a different story with the same result.
Pitcher Allison Doocy held the Gophers at bay through six innings. Iowa took the lead in the fourth with an unearned ground-ball RBI off the bat of McKenzie Schneider.
Minnesota finally answered in the top of the seventh inning when its own unearned run crossed the plate. Shortstop Aralee Bogar booted a routine ground ball with a runner in scoring position to send the game to extra innings.
Minnesota finally ended the game in the ninth inning when Iowa committed two more errors allowed the top half. The Gophers piled on 5 runs in that inning, and walked away with a 6-2 win.
“We had [that game] won, except for playing some not-mistake-free defense,” Looper said. “We had a couple blunders. We’re better than the product we put on the field.”
Iowa’s mistakes continued into the final game of the series. With Lauren Shaw in the circle to start, Minnesota tagged on 3 runs in the first inning. The Hawkeyes responded in the bottom of the second with a run, but Minnesota used a 6-run fourth inning to down Iowa.
The inning consisted of a double, an error, a bunt single, a fielder’s choice, a 3-run double, each of which was unearned. Another error plated another unearned run.
Iowa failed to respond, and Minnesota scored 2 more in the top of the fifth to win thanks to the mercy rule.
“I think the biggest thing is us taking care of ourselves, taking care of the ball, and doing the little things,” Looper said. “When that happens, we’ll get different outcomes. But that’s why we have an opponent on the field; we have to compete with them.”
The weekend scores may look bad for Iowa softball, but it could have been worse. Iowa managed to strand 20 Minnesota runners on base.
“I’d like to think the team is heartbroken, a little bit,” Looper said. “The nice thing is that we have an opportunity to get better, prepare — we now have more days to prepare for our Tuesday night game with Western — and we just have to take care of business and take care of us.”
Iowa gets a chance to show its progress on Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a game against Western Illinois.