The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa to face Rutgers in Big Ten Tournament

Iowa softball got a little lucky last weekend during the finale of regular-season Big Ten play.

Both Purdue and Indiana — teams ahead of the Hawkeyes a week ago  — were swept over the weekend and plummeted in the standings. This allowed Iowa to move from the No. 12 seed to the No. 10 seed despite going 1-6 in its last seven games.

That jump means instead of facing Illinois or Ohio State, the Hawks get No. 7 Rutgers.

“The last two years, we’ve lost on the first day, so I think we’re taking this one very personally,” catcher Holly Hoffman said. “We’re looking to have a win and at least make it to Friday, if not Saturday.”

The Scarlet Knights are beatable, for starters.

They had a regular season in their first year in the league, posting a 29-19 record while going 11-12 in conference play. Rutgers’ ERA of 4.94 ranks eighth in the conference while its batting average sits at .312.

Alyssa Landrith (15-11, 3.23 ERA) leads the Scarlet Knight pitching staff and has posted 147 strikeouts this season while walking 63 batters. After Landrith, Shayla Sweeney (6-2, 5.90 ERA) and Dresden Maddox (8-6, 6.28 ERA) are the other two Scarlet Knight pitchers who have played significantly this season.

If anything, it’s a much better matchup for Iowa than facing a team that’s already beaten them twice (Illinois) or a team that is 7-3 in its last 10 games (Ohio State).

“I think when we get there and play Thursday we’re just going to flip a switch,” Hoffman said. “Everyone knows what it means and no one wants to leave Thursday night because we lost — that’s embarrassing.”

Iowa certainly has motivation and absolutely nothing to lose — a dangerous combination to play against in a single-elimination tournament.

However, they will also need the team to show up for more than one day. Iowa has not won more than two games in a row all season, which doesn’t bode well for its chances in a tournament setting.

Starkenburg has ability to overpower hitters, but has struggled with control on occasion. Whether she can find harmony between the two will play huge against a Rutgers team that boasts six hitters with averages above .300.

“I’ll be ready,” Starkenburg said. “I think I’ve zoned in a lot on my pitching and hitting my spots. I think Holly and I have started working together really well and that’s helped too.”

While Starkenburg having a good game will be the start of what Iowa needs to do, drumming up run support will also be critical.

Only centerfielder Sammi Gyerman and shortstop Megan Blank have averages above .300.

However, Allie Wood — who hit two home runs in the regular season finale — will look to give them a boost.

Iowa hasn’t played Rutgers yet this season, but head coach Marla Looper really isn’t worried.

“We just have to take care of the ball,” Looper said. “We’ve just got to take care of the ball ourselves and not worry as much about them.”

Follow @JordyHansen for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa softball team.

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