Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa softball opens Big Ten tournament Thursday vs. Wisconsin

Hawkeyes, batting .212 as a team, drew the No. 12 seed

Iowa softball coach Renee Gillispie speaks to a player between innings eaerlier this season. The Hawkeyes face Wisconsin in a first-round game at the Big Ten tournament Thursday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa softball coach Renee Gillispie speaks to a player between innings eaerlier this season. The Hawkeyes face Wisconsin in a first-round game at the Big Ten tournament Thursday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Renee Gillispie is seeking more patience at the plate.

More production would be fine, too.

Iowa opens play at the Big Ten softball tournament Thursday; first pitch against Wisconsin is 10 a.m. (Iowa time) at Andy Mohr Field in Bloomington, Ind.

For the Hawkeyes (19-31) to avoid one-and-done in the single-elimination tournament, they’ve got to generate some offense.

“Their pitchers are good with their changeups,” said Gillispie, the Hawkeyes’ first-year coach. “They’re good at keeping you off-balance.”

Wisconsin (38-11) swept the Hawkeyes by verdicts of 8-0, 9-1 and 4-2 at Madison, Wis., April 5-7. The Badgers are the No. 5 seed; Iowa drew the final spot in the 12-team tournament.

“I like the idea of seeing somebody we’ve already played,” Gillispie said. “I feel that we’ve got a better program than we had early on.”

Part of the reason is the emergence of Sarah Lehman as a secondary pitcher.

A former all-stater at Iowa City Regina, Lehman began her college career as a volleyball player at Coe College. She has switched schools, switched sports and taken some burden off ace Allison Doocy.

“I know she’s a year behind, but she has worked really hard all fall and into spring,” Gillispie said of Lehman. “The last three weeks, she has really stepped up. She pitched five innings, then seven, then she got her first win.

“Whether we pitch Allison or Sarah (Thursday), either of them will do well.”

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And that brings us back to Iowa’s offense. The Hawkeyes are averaging 2.7 runs per game, and .212 isn’t exactly boiling when it comes to a composite batting average.

DoniRae Mayhew leads the Hawkeyes at .264 with five home runs.

The Iowa-Wisconsin victor advances to face Ohio State (34-15) in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Friday.

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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