Examining highs and lows after the first month of the Iowa softball season

Raven Moore
Hawk Central
Through the Hawkeyes' first 19 games, senior outfielder Nia Carter (14) leads the team with 31 hits and a .484 batting average.

Despite it just being one month into Iowa's latest softball campaign, it's clear that there is a new energy surrounding the team.

From the play of their skilled veterans to the emergence of several freshmen, it has been an exciting time for the 11-8 team.

Ahead of this weekend's trip to Madeira Beach, Florida, let us take a look at the highs and lows that the team has had through the first four weeks of the season.

More:Iowa softball makes its presence felt with an impressive showing at the FAU Paradise Classic

The Good

No one can deny that their offense is producing at an impressive rate.

Through their first 19 games, they are averaging 4.2 runs per game, with a .290 batting average, and 150 hits. So far, the team already has six players with 12 or more hits.

Leading the way is senior outfielder Nia Carter, who has 31 hits to go along with a .484 batting average (second-highest in the Big Ten), both highs on the team.

Carter said that the team believes in themselves more than they did at this point last season.

"We are attacking early and go up to the plate fearless," Carter said. "You can tell how the culture has shifted from last year to this year. We have a lot more confidence going up to bat."

Another area of improvement has been the team's pitching staff.

Last season, the team had an average ERA of 5.03, but so far this season they have dwindled that number down to 2.00.

One of the reasons for that change is that the team has more pitchers to work with, which allows the Hawkeyes to avoid wearing out anybody's arm.

For example, freshman Jalen Adams got her first career starts during the Adam Brown Memorial Shamrock Classic. Currently, she ranks second in the conference for ERA (0.69) and seventh in batting average against (.176).

Adams said that knowing her teammates behind her can make plays helps her pitch with more confidence.

"Our defense has been doing really good behind me lately," Adams said. "So, I went in with a lot of confidence and was more excited than anything. Just knowing that the pitching staff chose me to go into those games and shut down the competition was really empowering."

Areas that could be improved

As welcome as the team's enhanced offense and growing bullpen are, the team still has had its share of ups and downs.

More:Iowa softball embracing infusion of youth and other things we learned from media day

Since the first weekend of the season where they went 4-1, the Hawkeyes have gone 7-7, losing at least two or more games in their subsequent weekend series.

However, coach Renee Gillispie said that rather than focusing too much on the recent ebbs and flows, she is trying to keep the team working on getting better in the present.

"Things have been up and down so far, but we expected that with us having such a young team," Gillispie said. "We see moments where players are making unbelievable plays and making clutch hits when we need them. Then, we see other times when we just aren't producing. It is a long season, so we always talk about this being a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to be patient and keep getting better every day."

What comes next?

Starting on Friday, the Hawkeyes will compete in The Spring Games. During the series, they will take on South Alabama, UT-Chattanooga, Princeton, Lehigh, Bucknell and Lafayette.

Then, they will head to USF where they will participate in the South Florida Showdown. On that trip, they will play Marist, Lehigh, USF and Texas between March 17-18.

Then conference play begins.

Their first Big Ten opponent will be Penn State. They last played each other during the 2020-2021 season when Iowa swept them 3-0 in their season series.

Gillispie knows how tough the Big Ten softball slate is, with the league sending a representative to Oklahoma City for the College World Series last year. Still, she said that even though it will be difficult, she remains optimistic about how her team can play in the league.

"We are excited about what the conference is bringing," Gillispie said. "Teams like Maryland have knocked off some top teams and Penn State has been playing well. Those are a couple of teams like us who finished in the lower half of the conference last season. So, we know that it is going to be tough, but fun."

Then on March 28, they will host their first home games of the season, when they welcome Nebraska to Bob Pearl Field for a Tuesday doubleheader.

"We have been gone for four weeks now and by the time that game comes, it would have been six weeks," Carter said. "We are excited to have a home crowd so that we can have some home-field advantage and show everyone what we can do."