116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa softball doesn’t exactly have the highest outside expectations going into 2022 — D1softball.com picked the Hawkeyes to finish 10th in the Big Ten — but don’t say that to the team.
“We were all kind of shocked,” pitcher Breanna Vasquez said of the prediction. “It's going to fire all of us up to really prove to everybody like, ‘Hey, we deserve to be here just as much as these other people do.’”
Despite a young roster that has only three seniors and low outside expectations, the Hawkeyes have their sights set at postseason success.
“We've always had a set of expectations going into our five-year plan, and this year is to win a conference championship,” fourth-year head coach Renee Gillispie said.
Iowa is coming off a fourth-place Big Ten finish, but lost eight seniors last year, including four pitchers.
“Our strength right now is going to be our hitting,” Gillispie said. “Our pitching is young.”
Vasquez, who transferred to Iowa after three years at Central Florida, will be the Hawkeyes’ only upperclassman pitcher. She had a 2.16 ERA in three years with the Knights.
“She’s going to step right in as a No. 1,” said Gillispie, who recruited Vasquez to UCF before taking the Iowa job.
Both of Iowa’s players to hit .300-plus in 2021 — Denali Loecker and Brylee Klosterman — are back in 2022 after earning all-Big Ten recognition as freshmen.
Gillispie also plans to use Loecker as a pitcher in 2022.
“No one knows what she's about because she didn't pitch at all last year,” Gillispie said. “So she’s going to be coming up as a secret weapon on the mound.”
Other key hitters include outfielder Nia Carter, DMACC transfer Sophia Maras and infielder Kalena Burns.
The 56-game schedule ahead of the Hawkeyes will be a new challenge for most of the team after two COVID-19-affected seasons. Only one athlete from Iowa’s current team was on the roster the last time the Hawkeyes played a full schedule.
“Last year, we didn’t get to go to (NCAA) regionals, and I think only playing Big Ten (teams) played a role in that,” Loecker said. “So hopefully this year when we play Top 25 teams, we get to expand that and hopefully make it to regionals.”
Comments: (319) 398-8394; email@example.com