By Anna Kayser
Iowa softball will end its home stand at 7 p.m. today with a nonconference game against Western Illinois following a four-game Big Ten losing streak.
The Leathernecks are 13-22 on the season, something the Hawkeyes can take advantage of if they don’t play down to their opponent.
This midweek matchup will be an opportunity to right the ship on all fronts, with pitching, offense, and defense all struggling at home against Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes lost to the Gophers by wide margins on April 12 and 13, with the closest game ending in a 6-2 defeat.
Sophomore Allison Doocy, who has been the Hawkeye ace all season, took the loss in the first game, allowing 5 runs. In the second game of the series, she allowed 5 runs in the top of the ninth inning to give Minnesota the advantage.
The Western Illinois offense is led by Hailey Duwa, who has a .369 average with 38 hits.
Taking advantage of the opponent and getting ahead in the count will be key for the Iowa pitching staff. Doocy will likely get the ball tonight, and head coach Marla Looper thinks that she can bounce back from her issues at Pearl Field.
“The biggest thing is, there’s still a lot of hope,” Looper said. “Minnesota is one of the top teams around here and in our conference for sure, and it’s never an easy series.”
For the majority of the season, the focus has been making adjustments at the plate. Now, the focus has shifted to defense.
The Iowa defense had 8 errors in the weekend series, something that can’t be swept under the rug.
“It’s about us making little adjustments throughout,” Looper said. “It’s all our drop steps, our first steps, our angles, those are all fixable things, they’re all controllable. We need to worry about what we can control, that’s one thing, and that means that we got to get back to work.”
The Hawkeyes had the means to win at least one game against Minnesota, and the offense is going to have to step up to take advantage of the nonconference game.
Western Illinois’s main pitcher, Emily Ira, has notched 115 strikeouts in her 101.1 innings pitched to go along with a 3.59 ERA.
However, the Iowa lineup has been prone to shakeups since the Nebraska doubleheader, so the order on the field could be subject to change.
The top hitters, Mallory Kilian and Allie Wood, have quieted down some since starting out hot the first half of the season. Kilian leads the offense with a .505 slugging percentage. Wood leads the team with 7 doubles, 2 triples, and 18 RBIs.
Freshman Aralee Bogar has been leading off the offense recently. In her first season, she has 35 hits, 21 runs, and 19 stolen bases. As one of the quickest members of the team, she has big speed at the top of the order.
Following the Western Illinois matchup, Iowa will travel to Illinois for a huge Big Ten series.