Improving softball team looking past record

Despite a rough-looking record, Hawkeye softball is content with the improvement it is seeing in Renee Gillispie’s first season as head coach.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa utility Abby Lien swings at a pitch during the the fourth inning of the first game in a double header against Illinois on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Lien popped up to right field. The Hawkeyes fell to the Illinis 12-11 but came back to win the second game.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

Iowa softball sits at about the midway point in conference play  with a 2-10 Big Ten record, 16-22 overall.

Obviously, that’s a less than ideal for any team, and even worse, the Hawkeyes are in last place in the Big Ten.

Throw in their 1-7 home record so far, and it has all the makings of a lost season, but that’s not the mantra this team has, and it’s certainly far from the goals head coach Renee Gillispie has.

Her mindset is focusing on improvement.

“We’re looking to be better than last year, and we are looking to be better than we were yesterday,” Gillispie said. “The girls are in a good place right now, and they are very focused on what they need to accomplish.”

Records never tell the whole story; they tell even less when improvement is the goal, something the softball team has experienced.

Despite a brand-new coaching staff and eight new players — including four freshmen who regularly find themselves among the starters —  Iowa was still able to post its best nonconference record since 2013, 14-9.

That Iowa’s success has not transferred to conference play probably has a lot to do with the strength of this season’s Big Ten and with the inexperience of the team.

However, going by Gillispie’s goal of improvement, Iowa has certainly showed some of that.

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Freshman Abby Lien is one of the Hawkeyes who has shown some steady growth this season. She entered Big Ten play having played in 20 games and batting just .170.

In Lien’s five games before Wednesday, she has found her groove. She rode a streak of five-straight games having reached base, and in those five games Lien hit a .500 (5-for-10) with a homer and two RBIs.

More impressive than her hitting, at least to Gillispie, has been her ability to stay composed in the batter’s box.

“She’s just relaxed,” Gillespie said. “She doesn’t try to over-think. I think Abby’s found her relaxed state, and she’s able to stay comfortable in the box. I love her because she’s relaxed and she’s doing her job.”

Lien attributes her success and ability to stay cool under pressure to the friendly competition among her and her teammates.

“I just look to my teammates to push me in practice,” Lien said. “Even little competitions before games if they’re hitting well, it makes me want to hit well.”

Hallie Ketcham is another freshman who has made some strides in her game over the past few weeks.

She had a mediocre nonconference slate after battling back from an injury, but she has come around the last several games. In her last seven games, Ketcham has hit .333 (6-for-18) and has scored 2 runs. She can get on base and wreak havoc with her base-running.

“My approach at the plate is getting base hits and getting on base,” Ketcham said. “I want to help my team score and win. I have worked hard this offseason to be comfortable at the plate to step up and in those moments.”

Iowa’s next opponent will be Rutgers, which they will play this weekend starting Friday.

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