Iowa softball struggles in first six games of season

The Hawkeyes went 2-4 against Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan, and Michigan State this weekend in Florida.


Emily Wangen

Infielder Nia Carter leads off the base during the Iowa softball fall opener against Des Moines Area Community College on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. The Hawkeyes beat the Bears 4-1 in 10 innings.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

After 356 days without a game, Iowa softball kicked off its season this past weekend in Leesburg, Florida, with six games in three days.

The Hawkeyes struggled in their first series of the season, going 2-4 in doubleheaders against Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan, and Michigan State.

Iowa split the series with Ohio State on Friday, losing the first game against the Buckeyes, 2-3. Sophomore infielder Kalena Burns hit her first home run of the season in the game. Last year, Burns led the team with five home runs.

Senior right-handed pitcher Sarah Lehman took the mound for the season opener for the Hawkeyes, striking out five batters. But Lehman allowed three runs, ultimately taking the loss for the game.

But the second game was one to remember for sophomore outfielder Nia Carter, who hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to boost the Hawkeyes over the Buckeyes, 4-3. She ended the day five-for-seven at the plate.

“I was just trying to keep calm,” Carter said in a release about her walk-off hit. “I swung at a really high riseball, and I knew I was getting a little antsy. After that first pitch, I knew I needed to calm it down and do what I know how to do best.”

Senior left-handed pitcher Lauren Shaw faced a Big Ten team for the first time since her freshman year and struck out six batters in her first win of the season on Friday night.

“It was good to see both Sarah and Lauren pitch complete games,” Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie said in a release. “They kept batters off balance, and I was proud of how they came out to play.”

Iowa didn’t see any success on Saturday, as it lost both games of its doubleheader against No. 17 Michigan.

Senior right-handed pitcher Allison Doocy made her season debut for the Hawkeyes in the first game on Saturday, pitching a complete game while allowing two runs.

But two runs were enough for the Wolverines, as Iowa was not able to cross the plate, losing 2-0.

“Doocy did a great job,” Gillispie said. “She pitched a solid game — we just did not have the offense behind her to be able to come up with the runs we needed.”

RELATED: Hawkeye softball opens season with three doubleheaders in Florida

Iowa found home plate in the second game of the day on Saturday, as Carter accomplished a double steal in the fourth inning for the Hawkeyes’ first run of the game. Iowa rallied in the seventh with four runs, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Michigan’s six-run lead, as Iowa lost, 5-6.

Freshmen pitchers Denali Loecker and Maggie Peterson made their debuts on the mound in game two against Michigan. Loecker allowed six runs in 3.1 innings pitched, while Peterson allowed one hit and collected a strikeout in one inning.

“Michigan is a tough team to beat, they are solid,” Gillispie said. “They had two solid pitchers that kept us off balance all day. We did not make the adjustments we needed to.”

Sunday was up-and-down for Iowa, as it split a doubleheader with Michigan State.

Lehman pitched another complete game in the first game against the Spartans, allowing only one run in seven innings, while striking out seven.

“I think it helped to have different pitches to go to, the inside was really working so we kept going with that,” Lehman said in a release. “I knew the defense had my back on that and they did really well behind me.”

The Hawkeyes were able to get the bats going in the first game as well, outscoring the Spartans 6-1 to take the win. Loecker, freshman utility player Grace Banes, and sophomore infielder Kalena Burns all had three RBIs in the win.

“It felt pretty good,” Banes said in a release. “I was hitting it right at people to start the weekend, so it was nice to string some hits together.”

But the Hawkeyes didn’t bring in any runs in the second game of the doubleheader, as senior Allison Doocy completed her second complete game of the weekend, allowing only one run.

Michigan State scored its first and only run of the game in the second inning with a single, a walk, and an RBI single.

The coaching staff saw the diamond in the rough from the weekend. The pitching staff combined for 33 strikeout in six games, and Carter ended the weekend 10-20, going .500 at the plate.

“The pitching staff was the highlight of the weekend,” Gillispie said. “They came out and did what they needed to do to get the win. Sarah had a great outing in the first one [on Sunday]. Doocy kept them off balance; they just had that little flair hit that scored the run. We should have answered that offensively and we didn’t.”

Iowa has a week off before heading back to Leesburg March 11-14, taking on Penn State and Maryland in two three-game series.

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