By James Geerdes
A busy week of games lies ahead of Iowa softball this weekend — that is if it can make it through its first game with Ohio State on Thursday.
After finishing just 6-16 in Big Ten play, Iowa softball needs to make some adjustments. The adjustments should start in the box for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa finished last in conference play in batting average. The Hawkeyes hit a meager .219 in their conference games. Penn State, which failed to qualify for the tournament, hit .226 to secure the second-worst batting average in conference play.
Iowa has relied heavily on its pitching throughout the season. Sophomore Allison Doocy has led the Hawkeyes in the circle against Big Ten opponents, working a 2.31 ERA in Big Ten play in 15 appearances. In 88 conference innings, she has allowed 86 hits and has struck out 71. She has guided Iowa to the fourth-best ERA in the Big Ten. Head coach Marla Looper’s pitchers have accrued a 3.03 ERA.
But that pitching can’t win every game, and Iowa’s record proves this. Improving in the box will create a much more versatile softball team.
“You got to keep swinging,” Looper said. “We can’t go up there and watch too many pitches. We got to hit good pitches.”
Iowa ranks last in the Big Ten in more than just batting average. The team is last in slugging percentage with .299. Penn State, also second-to-last in that category, finished with at .330. Iowa is last in on-base percentage at .280. Maryland, the team in front of Iowa, holds a .306. Iowa is last in runs scored, scoring just 45 in conference play. The Hawkeyes are tied for last in total hits with 125, and they are last in RBIs, with 38.
So yes, they need to hit good pitches. Not only that, the Hawkeyes need to hit solid pitches hard; Iowa is also last in conference play in doubles and home runs.
Allie Wood and Aralee Bogar have led the team in the box in conference play. Wood, who is working a six-game hitting streak in the past two Big Ten series, has batted a hot .346 against Big Ten competition. Bogar has been efficient in the box, batting .290, but even more efficient on the base paths. Bogar is a perfect 10-for-10 in steals during Big Ten games. She has led the team in runs scored with 9.
But Iowa will need depth going into this weekend. Every player will need to improve if they hope to take down the Buckeyes Thursday night.
“We have to stick to our game plan and make the adjustments quicker,” catcher Angela Schmiederer said. “We have to be on the attack mindset every time we go on the field. That is what’s going to prepare us the best going into the tournament and being ready for anyone we might have to face.”
The game will start 7 p.m. This alone could be a bad sign for the Hawkeyes: Iowa is 1-7 in night games this season. Even so, Iowa has competed with — and beaten — tougher teams.