Iowa softball ready for road trip

The Hawkeyes head to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend for a four-game set with Purdue.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa pitcher Sarah Lehman winds up for a pitch during a softball game between Iowa and Ohio State at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday, May 5, 2019. The Hawkeyes, celebrating senior day, fell to the Buckeyes, 5-0.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

With 12 games under its belt, Iowa softball looks to continue its strong pitching and improve its hitting as it plays a four-game series against 4-8 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, from Friday to Sunday.

Three pitchers — Allison Doocy, Lauren Shaw, and Sarah Lehman — are leading the way for the Hawkeyes on the mound. Combined, they’ve pitched 84.2 innings for the Hawkeyes, striking out 72 batters.

“They really do push each other,” head coach Renee Gillispie said. “And they work well with each other. Having three seniors helps. So Doocy is basically in her sixth year, which helps out with that maturity.”

As a complete staff, the Hawkeyes have a 1.42 ERA.

While pitching is largely an individual endeavor, the Hawkeyes’ staff of hurlers still has great chemistry that helps it perform better.

“I feel like we feed off each other and we know that, if one of us gets into some trouble, we have the other two to come help us and just learning from each other,” Lehman said. “I know each of us has our go-to pitch, and if somebody is struggling with one of their pitches, we just go to each other for help, and just really supportive of each other.”

Lehman will be the starter for Friday’s game and then Shaw and Doocy will start in Saturday’s doubleheader. One of the three pitchers will start Sunday.

While Iowa does have a solid three-pitcher rotation in place now, Gillispie believes there is room for it to expand.

Gillispie said she would like to see more of freshman Denali Loecker on the mound. Loecker, however, is currently playing first base for Gillispie.

Gillispie also added that Loecker is likely to stay at first base, rather than head to the mound under any circumstance other than relief pitching situations.

As a first baseman, Loecker is tied for second in the Big Ten with five doubles, and her six RBIs are good for a team-high.

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“Denali is a hard worker,” Gillispie said. “And she puts in so many hours because not only does she play first base, so she’s having to work defensively. She also hits for us so she’s in every offensive session, and then she has to find time to pitch so she’s doing double time for us and doing twice as much as of the other players right now to make sure she can stay fresh.”

The Hawkeyes have struggled to hit the ball this season, batting .208 in their first series of the year and .196 in their second.

Sophomore Nia Carter is the Hawkeyes’ best hitter with a .386 batting average and a .432 slugging percentage. Lindy Milkowski, a freshman, has a .316 batting average — third-best on the team. Milkowski hit a walk-off single against Maryland March 14.

The Hawkeyes like scoring late, as 16 of their 37 runs have come in the seventh inning or later.

Gillispie wants to see more out of the Hawkeyes’ power hitters, though she said the top five players in her lineup are strong.

Sophomore Kalena Burns is the only player on the team that’s hit a home run. She’s cranked two out of the yard this year — good for second in the Big Ten.

Iowa is still learning, even heading into its third series of the season. The Hawkeyes have 10 freshmen on their roster, and they’re still gelling.

“They really do fight for each other,” Gillispie said. “That’s the exciting part right now. They’re really working hard for each other.”