The good news for the Iowa softball team — set to open its home season with a three-game set against Minnesota on Friday — is that the snowstorm isn’t supposed to begin until Sunday night.
But it will be a cold one at Pearl Field today, Saturday and Sunday for Iowa (19-8) as it opens Big Ten play against Minnesota (16-10).
“It’s officially spring, but as we all know, in Iowa that doesn’t mean much,” Iowa coach Marla Looper said. “The kids know if its raining, cold, windy, its all just mind over matter. And its not just us out there being cold.”
The Hawkeyes are hoping to turn a fairly hot spring into a hunt for a Big Ten title.
Iowa went 19-8 in six preseason road trips — two to Texas, one to Alabama, one to California, one to Maryland and one to Kentucky. In the process they also won five games over Top 25 teams.
“We had some key wins,” Looper said. “And some losses we’d like to have back. But you can’t take them back, you have to move forward.”
The Hawkeyes are led on the mound by Kayla Massey (9-4, 2.34 ERA) and Chelsea Lyon (8-4, 2.79).
At the plate, Megan Blank is hitting .395 with five home runs, seven doubles and 37 RBIs.
“She has continued what she built up last year,” Looper said. “The challenge moving foward is facing conference foes that have seen her. Will they even throw to her? And how to utilize her possible free passes.”
Massey is hitting .372 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.
Leadoff hitter Johnnie Dowling is hitting .352 with 23 runs scored and leads the team with 12 stolen bases.
Looper also had praise for No. 9 hitter Ashley Akers, a Clear Creek Amana grad who, despite hitting .214 overall, has come on lately.
“She’s a great table setter in that spot,” Looper said. “Her and Johnnie on the bases is fun to have.”
Still, the bottom half of the Hawkeyes’ lineup is filled with low batting averages.
“We’ve had some moments of brilliance, and we have a couple freshmen trying to work themselves through some growing pains,” Looper said. “It takes longer than anyone likes. They’ll come around and help us whenever they come around.”
Looper has been pretty happy with the defense, overall. Iowa has given up just 87 runs (3.2 per game), and only 23 have been unearned.
“Our pitchers have been awesome, and at times they’ve struggled, our defense has picked us up,” Looper said. “At times our offense has jumped in, which is nice.”
Minnesota comes to Iowa City with a tough No. 1 pitcher in Sara Moulton (14-6, 1.18 ERA, .159 batting average against). She has 161 strikeouts in 131 innings.
The Gophers have gone 0-3 against Top 25 teams. Iowa is 5-4.