Iowa softball set for four-game series with Nebraska

The Hawkeyes and the Cornhuskers are bringing matching, 20-16, records into their series at Pearl Field this weekend.


Grace Smith

Iowa infielder, Kalena Burns, attempts to hit the ball during the Iowa softball game v. Northwestern at Pearl Field on Friday, April 16, 2021. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes with a score of 7-0. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

After a rocky stretch in the middle of the season, sophomore designated player Kalena Burns has found her fire at the plate.

During Iowa softball’s series sweep of Rutgers in New Jersey April 30-May 2, Burns went 5-for-11 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

Burns, along with freshman first baseman Denali Loecker, leads the team with four home runs this season. She’s also amassed 19 RBIs on the season — good for second on the team.

Throughout the season, Burns has been focusing on her weaknesses, which include anticipating how to react to a pitcher she’s seen at the plate multiple times. She watches film not only of herself at the plate, but on other teams’ strategies as well.

“I just kind of break down my swing on certain pitches and then see how I can improve on parts of my swing,” Burns said. “I definitely look at my lower half a lot and see how much more I can improve and get my legs stronger, so I have more power throughout my swing.”

Throughout the season, head coach Renee Gillispie and her coaching staff noticed an impressive shift in Burns’s approach to the game.

“Just her tenacity,” Gillispie said. “I love that struggling early in the season and getting frustrated with it, not quite understanding what was happening, and she was pressing so much. I mean she just wanted to produce for the team, and she finally started relaxing and trusting herself and just see ball hit ball, you really see a big difference in her now.”

On the mound for the Hawkeyes, senior pitcher Allison Doocy is coming off a record-breaking weekend. Doocy threw Iowa softball’s 18th no-hitter in program history on May 2 against Rutgers, in a five-inning 8-0 Hawkeye win.

In her pitching bout on May 1, Doocy notched six strikeouts in five innings, becoming the sixth player in Iowa history to amass 700 career strikeouts.

RELATED: Doocy throws no-hitter, Iowa softball sweeps Rutgers

“When we came in here, they said to leave the jersey in a better place, and that’s on an off the field,” Doocy said. “I’ve loved competing with some of these athletes. I’ve competed with some of the best athletes that I know but also just great people. It’s been awesome to do it for the state of Iowa, do it for my family, and then do it for this team.

“Overall, it’s been a great experience, and I’ve just loved the experiences and everything that we’ve gotten to do being a Hawkeye.”

Iowa and Nebraska swept Big Ten softball’s weekly awards this week, as the teams come into the four-game series with matching 20-16 records — good for fifth in the Big Ten.

After her performance on the mound, Doocy was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.

Nebraska’s right-handed pitcher and utility player Kaylin Kinney captured Big Ten Player of the Week Honors after batting .800 in the Cornhuskers’ most recent series.

Iowa freshman center fielder Brylee Klosterman was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after she hit .615 in the four-game series against Rutgers. Klosterman shares the honor with Nebraska’s infielder Billie Andrews.

Iowa and Nebraska will match up at Bob Pearl Field starting at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. The teams will meet again for a doubleheader Saturday and end the series Sunday at noon.

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