Softball stays on road

By Frank Gogola

Softball opens what head coach Christina Sutcliffe called “the second half of the season” in Big 12 country.

The Huskies (9-11) will take on the Iowa State Cyclones (16-9) in a doubleheader at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cyclone Sports Complex in Ames, Iowa.

The Huskies are coming off a nine-game spring break trip in which they went 3-6. They will have had about a week to rest and prepare before the doubleheader, last playing Saturday at the Jayhawk Invitational in Lawrence, Kan.

“After a week of all games, it’s nice to recoup and get those couple days off,” Sutcliffe said. “I think it’s a good time to not have a midweek game because we can refocus. We look at these games after spring break as part two of the season and focus on conference.”

With the weather warming up, the Huskies will have the opportunity to practice outside on the dirt and grass as opposed to the turf on the Chessick Practice Center. Sutcliffe said practicing on a surface similar to that on which the team plays its games should help the Huskies get into more of a rhythm fielding.

Sutcliffe said the Huskies will need to play a clean game defensively against the Cyclones, who know how to put up runs and can do so in a variety of ways.

“We got to see them in Kansas [at the Jayhawk Invitational],” Sutcliffe said. “We didn’t play them, but we got to watch them play. They’re definitely an offensive powerhouse.”

The Cyclones average 5.4 runs per game and allow an average of 3.9 runs per game. They have five batters hitting .347 or better, with sophomore Brittany Gomez leading them with a .438 batting clip, and three batters with 20 or more RBIs.

“It’s a matter of mixing speed and hitting out spots,” Sutcliffe said. “We’re going to try to get them to chase pitches off the plate. We tend to get in trouble with walks, so we need to minimize that and get key outs on defense.”

Katie Johnson, Iowa State’s freshman right-handed pitcher, has started 22 of the Cyclones’ 25 games, going 15-8 with a 2.81 era in 24 appearances. Sutcliffe said she thinks the Cyclones will start Johnson in only one game, trying to conserve her for conference play.

Sutcliffe said the Huskies plan to start Jessica Sturm (6-4), junior left-handed pitcher, in one game and freshman Rebecca Rupard (1-4) or junior Allyson Hecht (2-1), both right-handed pitchers, in the other game.

“When you’re playing a Big 12 school, you’re trying to stay in both games,” Sutcliffe said. “You try to get a split at least, and then you try to steal the second game.”