6 games stand between Iowa softball and proving it can compete

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6 games stand between Iowa softball and proving it can compete

University of Iowa softball player Allison Doocy winds up to pitch during a game against Western Illinois University on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018. Doocy pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts and gave up one run on one hit but the Fighting Leathernecks defeated the Hawkeyes 2-1. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

University of Iowa softball player Allison Doocy winds up to pitch during a game against Western Illinois University on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018. Doocy pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts and gave up one run on one hit but the Fighting Leathernecks defeated the Hawkeyes 2-1. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa softball player Allison Doocy winds up to pitch during a game against Western Illinois University on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018. Doocy pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts and gave up one run on one hit but the Fighting Leathernecks defeated the Hawkeyes 2-1. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa softball player Allison Doocy winds up to pitch during a game against Western Illinois University on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2018. Doocy pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts and gave up one run on one hit but the Fighting Leathernecks defeated the Hawkeyes 2-1. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

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Iowa softball takes the field in Evansville, Illinois, this afternoon as it begins the second-to-last Big Ten series of the season.

First pitch against Northwestern is slated for 4 p.m. this afternoon, with Saturday and the April 29 games coming at 1 p.m. and noon, respectively.

The Wildcats are 30-13 on the season — compared with the Hawkeyes’ 19-26 — and 11-5 in the Big Ten.

Northwestern has also faced off against Penn State and Indiana twice in unofficial conference matchups, going 2-0 against each team.

Sabrina Rabin leads the club with a .392 batting average and 30 stolen bases in 34 attempts. Rachel Lewis follows her with a .336 and a team leading 16 home runs.

In the circle, Kenna Wilkey and Morgan Newport have split the action, starting in 16 and 14 games, respectively. Wilkey owns a 3.34 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 138.1 innings pitched, with Newport tossing a 3.63 ERA in 83 innings.

Comparing pitchers, Iowa’s go-to Allison Doocy has thrown for 172 strikeouts over 169 innings. In the conference, she lands in fourth in strikeouts and fifth with a 1.74 ERA.

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Errors have riddled the Hawkeye defense, something that Doocy can help try to control from the circle.

“I think [I can help by] just being locked in every second, having a big presence because that correlates out to the rest of the field, and just being positive about everything,” she said. “There are mistakes that I had made and mistakes made on the field, so just keeping a positive attitude because once we get down and back on our heels, that’s when we’re going to make mistakes.”

Iowa’s offense has generated runs from the top of the order, but the bottom has been relatively quiet in its nine-game losing skid.

Hitting needs to be contagious, and there needs to be a fight for run support when faced with an opportunity.

“I think we just have to start putting stuff together,” first baseman Mallory Kilian said. “I don’t think we ever let down, there’s a lot of fight no matter what the score is. We have a lot of power and ability in the lineup, so just taking advantage of that [is a strength].”

With the Big Ten season coming to a close, it will be important to step up play in all facets of the game so that Iowa stays in contention for a spot in the Big Ten Iournament.

The team has proven that it can compete with top-10 caliber teams, but now it’s time to see if it can rise to the occasion when down — something it has yet to do.

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