Iowa softball set for road tilt with Penn State and Maryland

The Hawkeyes will return to Leesburg, Florida this weekend for two three-game series with Penn State and Maryland.


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.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

Ahead of its upcoming weekend of action against Penn State and Maryland in Leesburg, Florida, Iowa softball has been refining its fielding and adopting a more aggressive offensive mentality.

Head coach Renee Gillispie believes cleaner fielding and a more aggressive offense will help her team rebound from a 2-4 start to the season Feb. 26-28 that saw Iowa go 1-1 against Ohio State, 0-2 versus No. 17 Michigan, and 1-1 against Michigan State.

Gillispie said defensive errors cost her Hawkeyes a few games. Iowa made seven errors in its first six games, compared to a combined three made by its opponents.

“When you’re indoors and you can’t get fly balls and you’re not on dirt and then you try to go down there and play in Big Ten you’re first games out, it’s really tough,” Gillispie said. “It was tough for all the teams down there. So being on dirt a little bit, we finally got on our field [Monday] for the first time, and so I think you’re going to see a lot of that cleaning up just as you get a chance of being out there and seeing some fly balls.”

“Yeah, we’re looking forward to seeing the adjustments that we made this weekend,” Gillispie said.

As for the bats, Gillispie said the Hawkeyes became timid at the plate at the end of their season-opening tilt.

The Hawkeyes batted .208 and struck out 52 in six games.

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“We had way too many strikeouts and way too many strikeouts looking,” Gillispie said. “We just have to be a tougher out. I think if we hit more balls in play and just be tougher out at the plate, we’ll see some good things happening.”

Nia Carter has been Iowa’s most productive offensive player so far this season. The sophomore, who was the Hawkeyes’ best hitter last season, is hitting .500 with 10 hits and three RBIs.

The Hawkeyes played nine true freshmen during their opening weekend, and Gillispie was impressed with how freshman Grace Banes performed. She played multiple positions during Iowa’s season-opening set, including shortstop and outfielder.

Freshman Denali Loecker is another freshman Gillispie had high praise for, as Loecker is tied for first in the Big Ten Conference in doubles with three.

“She’s got a big bat,” Gillispie said. “And when she starts catching up with the speed of the game, I think she’s one you’ll want to keep an eye on. I think she’s going to be really strong for us.”

Iowa’s first opponent of this weekend will be 0-6 Penn State. The Hawkeyes will collide with the Nittany Lions in a doubleheader on Thursday and a single game Friday.

Iowa then meets with 3-3 Maryland Saturday and Sunday.

Mark Montgomery is in his second season as the Terrapins’ head coach, and Gillispie has known him for over 25 years. She said he is going to revitalize Maryland’s softball program.

Despite her familiarity with Iowa’s second foe of the weekend, Gillispie is confident in her team’s abilities.

“I think we just got to keep focusing on playing our game and stay within ourselves and we’ll be fine coming out this weekend,” Gillispie said.