Most of the time when a Big Ten softball team hits the road in February, they hope to compete with their host schools and avoid injuries. If they are able to steal a game or two over a ranked opponent, that’s not only an upset by the rankings, but also a marquee win for the program.
The University of Iowa’s softball team had two such opportunities for statement wins this weekend at the Bama Bash, an annual softball tournament hosted by the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the current top ranked team in the coaches’ poll and the defending national champions. Being able to upset the Tide on their home field would have been a signature win big enough to propel Iowa softball into conversations all over the nation.
Iowa opened up the weekend with a Friday afternoon game against Winthrop University. The Hawkeyes got the best start of the season thus far from pitcher Chelsea Lyon, who struck out six and surrendered a lone run en route to a 2-1 victory. Both of the Hawkeye runs came in Iowa’s last at-bat of the game and the team took the momentum of that win into their first of two meetings with the defending champs.
Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina was able to keep the Hawkeye bats throughout the entire game, going the distance and striking out six on the way to shutting out Iowa. Alabama took the first meeting, 5-0 and the Hawkeyes hit the showers with a day one split.
Saturday morning brought a rematch with Winthrop and another Hawkeye victory. Iowa pitcher Micaela Whitney continued to confuse the Winthrop bats, striking out six. The Hawkeyes pushed across seven of their own runs in her support to get back in the win column, 7-1. A rematch with Alabama was on deck for the Hawkeyes and another chance to put themselves in the national conversation.
Unfortunately for Iowa, Alabama’s Jackie Traina was back in the circle and she again quieted the Hawkeye bats. The Tide plated four runs of their own which were more than enough to win, 4-1. Iowa’s chances for a statement win at the Bama Bash were lost.
Earlier today the Hawkeyes wrapped up the weekend by taking some frustration out on the Leathernecks of Western Illinois, 12-4. The Hawkeyes now head home with a 10-5 overall record and another successful road trip. A week of practice will prelude the Easton Invitational in Fullerton, CA. The Hawkeyes will take on Oregon State, #20 Stanford, CSU Bakersfield and the host school, Cal State Fullerton.