Iowa softball to host Wisconsin in Big Ten opener

The Hawkeyes will play their first conference game of the season against the Badgers in their home opener at Bob Pearl Field.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie talks with her players during a softball game between Iowa and Indiana at Pearl Field on Saturday, April 3, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 1-0.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

As temperatures rise in Iowa City, Hawkeye softball is returning home to host its first games of the season at Bob Pearl Field.

Iowa has been on the road for the first six weeks of the season. The Hawkeyes have traveled to California, Florida, Tennessee, Kansas, and Oklahoma in their nonconference stretch.

Most recently, the Hawkeyes completed a 10-game, seven-day road trip throughout spring break. Iowa played in the Jayhawk Invitational and Oklahoma Hall of Fame Classic, and competed in two midweek games.

The return to play in Iowa City is a welcome change, pitcher Denali Loecker said. The Hawkeyes will have time to rest and recover at home before the start of Big Ten play. Iowa will also welcome its fans back to Pearl Field. 

“Just having all our fans there is always fun, because everyone is always wild,” Loecker said. 

Because of travel and poor weather, the Hawkeyes will have just one day of practice on their home turf ahead of their series against Wisconsin.

The 15-7 Badgers were picked to finish eighth in the Big Ten by conference coaches. But Wisconsin started the season strong and sits at 28th in the Ratings Percentage Index. Iowa is 60th in the RPI.

Wisconsin has won eight of its last nine games, including victories over ranked Clemson and University of Central Florida. The Badgers have boasted a powerful pitching staff, led by Maddie Schwartz’s 2.15 ERA and 10-2 record.

With both teams holding similar skill sets, Hawkeye head coach Renee Gillispie expects it to be a tight series. 

“It will be tough,” Gillispie said. “But if the girls show up the way they did for the first few games in Oklahoma City, we should be in good shape.”

The Hawkeyes won their three opening games at the Oklahoma Hall of Fame Classic on March 18-20 against Houston, San Diego, and Sam Houston State. Iowa lost its final two contests to Indiana and No.1 Oklahoma. The Hawkeyes left Oklahoma with a 16-10 overall record.

Junior infielder Nia Carter tied the Hawkeye softball program’s single-game hit record at Iowa’s tournament last weekend. Carter went 5-for-5 at the plate against Houston. She has hits in seven of her last nine games, including five multi-hit games.

Through 26 games, Carter has a .457 batting average.

“Seeing [Carter] be able to do that is very encouraging,” sophomore infielder Amber DeSena said. “Hitting is down to one person getting a hit and starting the momentum.”

The Hawkeyes and Badgers met for four games last season in Madison, Wisconsin. After a 1-3 showing in 2021, the Hawkeyes are motivated to get the better of the Badgers in 2022.

“They are a team that likes to fight,” Loecker said. “We went 1-3 against them last year, so we have a little grit and want to go out there and go 3-0.”

Iowa begins its series against Wisconsin on Friday at 3 p.m. The Hawkeyes and Badgers will also play on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at noon. All three games can be streamed on BTN+.