By James Geerdes
It’s win or go home.
Iowa softball enters the Big Ten Tournament as the 12th and last seed today, and it will face fifth-seed Ohio State.
And the odds are not in Iowa’s favor. Ohio State has a 34-13 record this year. It is also 14-8 in the Big Ten. Iowa, on the other hand, is 20-31 overall, 6-16 in the conference.
The Hawkeyes are also coming off a four-game losing streak. Last weekend, Iowa suffered three-straight losses to Purdue, the No. 11 seed at the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State is coming off a dominant performance against top-seeded Michigan. The Buckeyes beat Michigan, 10-1, forcing a mercy rule in 5 innings.
But now that it’s the postseason, none of the past matters for Iowa.
“Everything that has happened this season is out the door,” sophomore pitcher Allison Doocy said. “None of it matters. We will keep moving forward this weekend.”
Iowa needs to make some changes if it hopes to make a run in the tournament, both offensively and defensively. Iowa ranks last in batting average in the Big Ten, as well as second-to-last in fielding percentage. Iowa’s pitching, with Doocy at the helm, has guided the team into the tournament, and Doocy was just named to the second-team All-Big Ten roster.
“We need to attack balls defensively, while taking care of the ball,” head coach Marla Looper said. “Offensively, we need to hit good pitches. In the circle, we need to pound the zone and get ahead of hitters.”
Looper’s views are echoed by her top hitter, Allie Wood. Wood was also named to the All-Big Ten second team on Wednesday. She is hitting .306 with a .369 on-base percentage.
“We need to focus on making adjustments and following the process,” Wood said. “I think there was a time this season when we stopped making adjustments and we started struggling, especially at the plate and on defense.”
Although the team has been inconsistent, Looper’s squad has competed with some of the top teams in the nation. It has victories over tournament top-seed Michigan, No. 6 Arizona State, and No. 17 Baylor. If the Hawkeyes head into the tournament with the mentality that they can beat anyone, they have a chance to be a dark horse.
“There’s a confidence that collectively, as a team, we have,” Wood said. “If we present ourselves as the big team that we are, then we can go out there and beat anyone.”
It starts with Ohio State tonight. If Iowa can outplay the Buckeyes, then it will face Northwestern, and Iowa tallied a win against the Wildcats in April. If the Hawkeyes top Northwestern, they have a chance at playing two games Sunday for a Big Ten Championship.
“Go enjoy it,” Looper said. “Enjoy the game. Enjoy the opportunity to be in the Big Ten Tournament. Enjoy the opportunity to compete for a championship. It’s one weekend to win a championship.”