April 4, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — For University of Iowa softball to meet one of its goals and finish as a top team in the Big Ten Conference, the Hawkeyes need series wins or sweeps. That’s what they accomplished last weekend at Pearl Field.
Iowa entered the second weekend of Big Ten play with a 1-2 record. Following its’ three-game series sweep of Illinois, the Hawkeyes catapulted into the top half of the league standings and etched their way closer to .500.
“Getting that three-game sweep is huge, and it gets us closer to .500,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “For us to do what the players have set out to do — finish in the top three, and possibly win the conference — we have to win ball games and sweep series’… 1-2 (weekends) is not going to cut it.”
Iowa is tied for fourth in the Big Ten with Nebraska with a 4-2 record. Purdue is the lone unbeaten team in league play, followed by Michigan and Ohio State at 5-1.
“Everybody but one team has had a loss in conference, so it is wide open this year. Our 4-2 record puts us right in the middle of the pack, and if we can continue to take series then we’re right there. If we can keep up our momentum and take care of business then I like our chances.”
UI head coach Marla Looper
“Everybody but one team has had a loss in conference, so it is wide open this year,” said Looper. “Our 4-2 record puts us right in the middle of the pack, and if we can continue to take series then we’re right there. If we can keep up our momentum and take care of business then I like our chances.”
The Hawkeyes won their three games over the Fighting Illini in three different fashions. Iowa used a big inning — a five-run, fourth inning — to take the series opener, 5-1. In game two, the team pounded out 11 hits — the second-most for the squad this season — en route to a 9-1, six-inning run-rule win, and the Hawkeyes were victorious in a pitcher’s duel, winning 1-0 in 10 innings in the series finale.
“We won in a variety of ways,” said Looper. “It’s nice if you can get all three things (pitching, hitting, defense) in one game, but if you’re not getting the offense at least your pitching and defense is doing well.
“I was proud of the way the team did compete throughout the weekend. They didn’t rest when they put three-four-five runs on the board… they continued to pound. We showed growth from early in the season when we would put up a few runs and just stop. They continued putting pressure on the opponent.”
“The pitchers are definitely starting to hit their stride,” said Looper. “It is the perfect time for them to be settling in and getting into their own.”
Looper says the Hawkeyes need to carry their momentum into today’s game against Drake and into the weekend series at Northwestern.
“The Drake game is just as important as the Big Ten games,” she said. “All of our in-state games will be, and it starts (Wednesday) with Drake. We need that momentum overall in the season to get ourselves above .500, and it takes these nonconference games to do it.
“Drake is coming in hot, and we have to take care of business.”
Tonight’s game is set to begin at 6 p.m. (CT) at Pearl Field.