By James Geerdes
Around a dozen players on the Iowa softball team are huddled together before practice. They aren’t talking about the game they will play the next day. They aren’t talking about the 8 errors they committed the weekend before at Illinois. And they sure aren’t talking about their eight-game losing streak.
They’re playing hacky sack — or at least a form of it.
“It’s not really a true hacky-sack game,” head coach Marla Looper said. “I don’t know what they call it. It’s hacky and peg all in one. Three people get to hit it, then that person has to catch it to peg someone. If they drop it, they don’t get to peg someone. It is a form of Hacky. True hacky-sackers would probably call it a disgrace, but this is a game they’re really good at and they enjoy.”
That relaxed mindset could take the Hawkeyes a long way, especially after the rut the team has recently fallen into.
The Iowa softball team hasn’t been in the win column since April 10, when it won the opening game in a doubleheader against Nebraska. Since then, the Hawkeyes have been swept twice and lost to Nebraska and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Today, the team has a chance to add a win to its now 19-25 record. Looper and her squad will make the nearly two-hour trip west on I-80 toward Ames, where they will face in-state rival Iowa State at 4 p.m.
Before the game, the team will inevitably play their game of hacky sack, loosening up not just physically but mentally. Then, the real business starts.
Iowa was just swept by Illinois. While in Champaign, hits were few and far in between — a direct reflection of the team’s .230 batting average this season. Pitching, usually the team’s strong point, allowed 7, 6, and 9 runs in the three games. And the defense was riddled with errors.
Still, this doesn’t take the team out of contention.
“We need to start putting stuff together,” junior first basemen Mallory Kilian said. “We have some facets of the game that are working well together, while others are lacking. So if we can just get our hitting and defense to step up at the same time, I think that will help a lot.”
Defensively, the team struggled in Illinois. In the third game of the series alone, the team committed 6 errors, 4 of which came in one inning. The mental mistake of letting one error build on another haunts a team searching for consistency.
“There are a lot of the times where people felt rushed, they were trying to hurry to make the play instead of just taking their time and making sure we got the play done,” Looper said. “As it continued to snowball, it became a ‘oh gosh, I got to do it.’ When we get into the mindset of ‘I have to, I got to,’ you don’t get that much success out of anyone.”
The team has had success this season, though. Wins against Arizona State, Baylor, and Michigan show that Looper’s squad can compete with anyone in the nation, especially a 21-25 Iowa State.
“When we all come together and have a good mindset, not many teams can count us out,” ace pitcher Allison Doocy said. “When were all together and doing the little things we need to do, I think we can beat anyone.