The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa softball notebook | Hawkeyes look to build off last season’s success

The Hawkeyes have a newfound confidence after finishing last year with the highest win total since the 2008-09 season.
Isabella Tisdale
Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie poses for a portrait during Iowa softball media day at Bob Pearl Field on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. The Iowa softball team answered questions from media and held an open practice.



That’s the word Iowa softball head coach Renee Gillispie used to describe the identity of this year’s Hawkeye squad.

After finishing last season with a National Invitational Softball Championship title, Big Ten Tournament appearance, and 35-27 record — Iowa’s highest win total since the 2008-09 season —  the Hawkeyes have a newfound confidence. 

“This team, we’ve talked about how we know we can do it. We know we can make it to the postseason. We know we can win the Big Ten Tournament. This is the first time I’ve really felt that people believe it,” fourth-year outfielder Brylee Klosterman said Wednesday.

Gillispie thinks playing in the Big  Ten and NISC Tournaments helped the Hawkeyes learn how to compete in a high-pressure environment and succeed.

In her sixth season at the helm, Gillispie said practices are more intense, and players are putting more emphasis on weightlifting and training on their own time. Klosterman said she and her teammates try to treat every practice like a game.

Iowa was picked to finish 11th in the conference by Softball America and 13th by D1 Softball, but the Hawkeyes are paying no attention to those rankings.

“We want to just prove everybody wrong. We want to get back on the map and show that we’re a dangerous team to play against,” Klosterman said.

Iowa will open its season against North Carolina State and Western Kentucky on Friday in Clearwater, Florida.  The Hawkeyes will then face North Carolina Central and Notre Dame on Saturday and No. 13 Utah on Sunday.

On the bump

Iowa’s pitching staff saw improvements last season under first-year pitching coach Mandy Gardner. Led by Jalen Adams, The Hawkeyes’ ERA dropped 2.46 points from 2022 to 2023. Adams finished with double-digit wins on the mound and the fourth-best ERA in the Big Ten at 2.02.

Adams said this year’s team is “tightly knit,” and she thinks that chemistry will help the Hawkeyes on the field.

“From her freshman year, she came out, and she just has that expectation of what she needs to do, and she brings people along with her. I think she was born that way,” Gillispie said of Adams’ leadership.

Junior Devyn Greer was another of Iowa’s top performers on the mound last year. Greer threw 37 innings, posting a 3.41 ERA in seven starts.

Notable newcomers

Iowa welcomed nine newcomers this season, and Gillispie thinks a few of them will have an immediate impact.

The head coach said Jena Young from Winterset High School has won the starting job at shortstop and is a “threat” at the plate with home run power.

Jaylee Ojo, one of seven Hawkeyes on the roster from California, is expected to earn some time on the bump in her first collegiate season. Gillispie said Ojo has increased her pitching speed since the fall, now hitting mid-60s from the circle. Ojo is listed at 5-foot-11 on the roster, but the head coach described the right-handed pitcher as “6-foot-plus.”

Gillispie also mentioned that Soo-Jin Berry, a first-year from Pittsburg, California, has locked down third base duties.

“Keep an eye on them,” Gillispie said.

Veteran leadership

Iowa’s roster features three seniors, including Klosterman, Grace Banes, and Sammy Diaz, who started every game at first base last season.

Gillispie said Klosterman, who started 37 games last year, will start in center or left field. Banes started 59 games in the infield last season and was named the NISC Tournament MVP after hitting .385 with three home runs and seven RBIs. Gillispie said the senior class is “hungry and pushing the freshmen along.”

“I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Klosterman said of her final season. “I just want to enjoy everything — enjoy the good and the bad.”

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About the Contributors
Kenna Roering
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.