Iowa Softball readies for No. 1 UCLA, other opponents at Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

Raven Moore
Hawk Central
During the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Iowa's Denali Loecker (5) had four hits, two home runs, and  seven RBIs in four games.

This weekend, the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3) are headed to the West Coast where they will compete in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California.

They are coming off of an up-and-down showing at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge where they split their games against NC State and Syracuse.

Through the team's first two games, Iowa outscored their opponents 18-2.

It was a different story in the final two games of the weekend where they were outscored 14-5.

Seven of those runs came in the third inning of their final game against Syracuse.

While their last two showings didn't go as planned, Iowa's head coach Renee Gillispie said that there is no reason to panic this early.

"We had 11 hits in that last game," Gillispie said. "Basically, we just did not have the clutch hits when we needed them and that was the biggest difference of that game. There was nothing that happened was so glaring that we need to redo or change. We just have to make sure that we are taking care of business and not giving up big innings."

That will be imperative if they hope to take down the opponents this weekend: Bethune Cooeikman, UCLA, Cal Berkeley, CSUN and Oregon State.

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Loecker said that she can't wait to get back on the field and is excited to see how the Hawkeyes perform against the best of the best.

"It is going to be nice facing top teams because we get to see where we are at," said junior infielder and pitcher DenaliLoecker. "Obviously, last weekend was up and down, but getting out there and fighting as a team is what I am looking forward to."

The opponent who has been the biggest topic of conversation is the No. 1 UCLA Bruins, who the Hawkeyes will play Friday at 10 p.m. CT.

In addition to boasting a perfect 12-0 record, they also have scored three or more runs in every game this season.

Junior utility player Sammy Diaz said the team isn't intimidated by anyone.

"I take every game with the same mindset," Diaz said. "I am always confident and going in telling myself that I am better than who I am facing. I think as a team that is what we have to do. It does not matter what name is across their chest, everyone needs to be on the same page."

Those sentiments were echoed by Gillispie, who said that with UCLA making its way to the Big Ten soon, her team might as well see what they have to look forward to.

"Anytime you go against the number one team in the country, it gives you a sense of where you need to go," Gillispie said. "UCLA is going to be in our conference in two years, so we get a chance to see what we have to do to make sure we are competing against them."

Iowa will kick off play this weekend against the Bethune Cookman Wildcats, a team the Hawkeyes topped 8-0 earlier this season, in the first game of a doubleheader. That game will start at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday.