Iowa softball kicks off Big Ten play this weekend in three-game series against Penn State

Raven Moore
Hawk Central
Iowa's Brylee Klosterman bats during a NCAA Big Ten Conference softball game against Wisconsin last season.

The Iowa softball team is riding high after a solid start to the season and with Big Ten play approaching on the horizon.

The Hawkeyes (18-11) will have their work cut out for them this weekend when they head to Happy Valley to play Penn State in a three-game series. Right now, Penn State (18-4) is winning a conference-best, 81.8% of their games. In fact, they have the conference's top pitching staff with an ERA of 1.42 and have allowed just 74 hits this season.

Though facing them could be a daunting task for some teams, Iowa has shown no signs of backing down thanks to the tough schedule they've seen early on this season. So far, they've faced three top-25 teams, most recently No. 9 Texas in the USF Tournament last weekend.

As they prepare to take on Penn State, sophomore outfielder Tatianna Roman said that the team isn't getting too wrapped up in the caliber of their opponents.

"We have talked a lot about beating the game," Roman said. "No matter who is wearing the uniform, we have to beat the game of softball. So, we are just focusing on being in our element and beating any team that comes to play with us."

Coach Renee Gillispie said it's nice having to only worry about Penn State. Virtually every other weekend this season has been spent at tournaments with several opponents lining up against the Hawkeyes over a short stretch.

"We have faced the level of competition to help prepare us for the Big Ten," Gillispie said. "Having three games against one team is going to help us prepare the way that we need to. It is hard having to prepare for five different teams in one weekend. So, this should be a bit easier than what we have had to deal with other the past six weeks."

Not to mention, the Hawkeyes have been pretty successful as of late too, winning seven of their last 10 games. They've scored an average of 6.7 runs over that span.

Junior outfielder Brylee Klosterman said that the recent offensive output has given them a big confidence boost moving forward.

"Our last road trip gave us a lot of experience and was a really good lesson for us," Klosterman said. "I think that it showed us that we can compete with anyone and it does not matter the name that is on the jersey. If we put our minds to it and play our game instead of someone else's, we can get it done."

All season their offense has been one of the best in the Big Ten. They currently rank top five in hits (240), batting average (.300), and triples (10).

So, will the Hawkeyes' high-flying offense be able to crack the Nittany Lions' stifling pitching?

Everyone will find out Friday when they play the first game of their three-game series at 4:00 p.m. CT. The game can be streamed on Big Ten Plus.