Seven plus innings will be key for Iowa pitchers

Iowa%27s+Daniella+Ibarra+steps+up+to+bat+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+15%2C+2017.+Iowa+won+the+game+6-1+against+Des+Moines+Area+Community+College.+%28Ashley+Morris%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
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Seven plus innings will be key for Iowa pitchers

Iowa's Daniella Ibarra steps up to bat on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. Iowa won the game 6-1 against Des Moines Area Community College. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa's Daniella Ibarra steps up to bat on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. Iowa won the game 6-1 against Des Moines Area Community College. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

Iowa's Daniella Ibarra steps up to bat on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. Iowa won the game 6-1 against Des Moines Area Community College. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Ashle

Iowa's Daniella Ibarra steps up to bat on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. Iowa won the game 6-1 against Des Moines Area Community College. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

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Keeping the energy up and playing well against ranked opponents is easy, but what Iowa softball needs to work on is closing out games against middle-of-the-pack teams.

The Hawkeyes returned from California with only one win, although it came against No. 8 Baylor.

Two of the weekend games were canceled because of weather and faulty lighting, but the other two resulted in 3-2 losses for Iowa.

“We were hitting the ball, and we were pitching well,” sophomore pitcher Allison Doocy said. “Both of them ended in the last inning, so just finishing the games on the pitching side and the offense just continuing to give runs on that side of things.”

Iowa lost eight games by just 1 run last season. Turning those losses into wins would have given the Hawkeyes a winning record.

The same idea goes for this season; already, one-third of their games have been lost by 1 run.

The bright side for Iowa is that in the losses against Stanford and Cal Poly over the weekend, the defense committed no errors. That defensive improvement will be a big part of switching over from the loss column, but now, the focus needs to be on bettering the pitching staff and building the stamina to go seven — or more — innings.

“Early in the season, it is hard to pitch seven innings,” Doocy said. “When we’re here, we’re not getting that much endurance, but it is something we need to work toward, for our pitchers to finish games.”

RELATED: Hawkeyes control their position to win in the top-10

Credit still needs to be given to Iowa for taking down a top-10 team, something it hasn’t done since 2015.

The offense — specifically sophomore McKenzie Schneider — stepping up in tight games will be a huge part of taking stress away from the pitching staff.

In the seventh inning against Baylor, Schneider hit a 2-run homer to break the tie, giving Iowa the cushion. That was enough for Doocy to close out the game.

“It was a big win for our team, and everyone’s been working so hard,” Schneider said. “This is kind of our breakthrough moment.”

Schneider said she’s been having a tough time at the plate recently, but she cleared her head and did what was necessary.

The coaching decision to pinch hit her in the seventh inning was with the belief that she could do what was needed.

“She’s got power, we had a base runner on, and we didn’t just need to move her around, we needed to score,” head coach Marla Looper said. “She and a couple others have the power to drive the ball in the gap, and that one just happened to be driven over the fence.”

Despite the two tough losses, the weekend overall — including the canceled games — showed the team what they are capable of.

“We’ve got some resilience, we’re tough, we’re gritty, and we continue to fight,” Looper said. “We got to see them continue to fight and battle and prove that they should be on the field with those teams.”

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