The New Year has dawned which means that it is only a matter of time before softball season is here. Believe it or not, we are just over a month away from the first pitch being thrown, which means that we need to take a closer look at what is to come.
The Iowa Hawkeyes women’s softball team has been one of the elite programs in the sport for the past few decades and one of the best sports teams in the state. They have become a model of consistency and it is time to see what the 2022-23 campaign has in store for them
The History of the Hawkeyes
Before we dive into the newest campaign, we should first look back at the accomplishments of the Iowa women’s softball program. For more than 20 years, Iowa has been one of the elite programs in the nation.
Though they are not quite where they once were, there is a rich history of success laid by a foundation of memorable players. What kind of history of success have the lady Hawkeyes laid for future generations?
It starts with 16 NCAA tournament appearances. The NCAA tournament is the premier event in the college softball season and the singular goal of every program is to make it into the tournament. Making it to that tournament 16 times is no small feat and the Hawkeyes will look to make it 17 this coming season.
There are a pair of fours to be proud of as well. The first is the four Big Ten conference regular season titles that the Hawkeyes have. Winning the Big Ten, one of the toughest conferences in the country, is no small achievement and Iowa has been to the mountain top four times.
It is also worth noting that the Hawkeyes have a pair of Big Ten Tournament championships as well. The regular season and the playoff tournament are two different beasts and navigating the field is almost a prelude to the NCAA tournament itself.
The other four have to do with the number of appearances that the Hawkeyes have in the Women’s College World Series. Those four appearances are definitely something to be proud of but there is a little bit of a bittersweet taste to them. Though the Hawkeyes have appeared in the WCWS four times, they have yet to ascend the mountaintop.
— Iowa Softball (@iowasoftball) January 9, 2023
The 2022-23 Season: An Overview
Before we break down the schedule and really get into the nuts and bolts, let’s take a larger look at the schedule to come. It will be a long trek, covering 57 games of the best collegiate action in the nation.
The Hawkeyes have not been back to the NCAA tournament since 2009 and will be looking to establish themselves as one of the cornerstones of the sport once again. The season will begin on Friday February 10th with a game at home Loyola before eventually finishing with a Sunday May 7th battle against rival Wisconsin in Wisconsin.
There are several events over the course of the season that the Hawkeyes will take part in. It begins with the FAU Paradise Classic to start the season. Following that is the Big Ten/ACC challenge where the best of both conferences collide to show who is the best of the best.
There is then the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, which honors former softball player and coach Marry Nutter. The Classic will see Iowa and others tangle with some of the best west coast teams in the nation like Cal Berkley, UCLA, and Oregon State.
The Adam Brown Memorial Shamrock Classic and the Spring Games follow the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic before giving way to the USF tournament in Florida. Finally, there is the Big Ten conference slate, which is the longest stretch of the schedule for the Hawkeyes before the NCAA tournament.
— Iowa Softball (@iowasoftball) November 7, 2022
The 2022-23 Season: A Deeper Dive
Now that we have the schedule laid out from a 10,000-foot view, it is time to take a more thorough look at what lay ahead. The season will break down into several events before culminating with the Big Ten conference schedule to wrap up the regular season.
We begin with the FAU Paradise Classic. The games will be played in Boca Raton, FL and will see the Hawkeyes take on five different programs: Loyola, Bethune Cookman, Mississippi State, FAU, and Stony Brook. With five games over the first three days of the season, it should give a good early indication as to what kind of season the Hawkeyes will have ahead of them.
Five days after the Paradise Classic is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In this four-game slate, the Hawkeyes will tangle with two of the staple programs of the ACC in Syracuse and NC State. They will face the Wolfpack on February 17th and 18th. On the 18th, they will complete the double-header by taking on the Orange Women before facing them a second time the following day.
The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic is next up on the slate. The Hawkeyes will play five games in this weekend tournament. They begin Friday with a double-header against Bethune Cookman and UCLA. On Saturday, they have a double-header against Cal Berkeley and CSUN. Finally, on Sunday, they will play the last game of the Classic against Oregon State.
The Adam Brown Memorial Shamrock Classic is the next one on the docket. The Hawkeyes take on South Dakota and Alcorn State on Friday, Nebraska Omaha and Central Arkansas on Saturday, and Nebraska Omaha again on Sunday.
𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗛𝗮𝘄𝗸𝘀!
— Iowa Softball (@iowasoftball) November 11, 2022
Next comes a six-game slate known as the Spring Games. The team will head to Madeira Beach, FL to play against a diverse group of opponents. It is interesting to note that they will have double headers on Friday and Saturday with the usual Sunday tilt but there will be a Tuesday game as well. There is South Alabama and UT-Chattanooga on Friday, Princeton and Lehigh on Saturday, and Bucknell on Sunday and Lafayette on Tuesday.
The first tournament of the season will come in March via the USF tournament. In Tampa, FL, the Hawkeyes will have a pair of Friday and Saturday games, beginning with Marist and Lehigh before seeing USF and Texas finish out the tournament.
Then the real tough part of the schedule begins. It is then time for the Big Ten conference schedule starting on Friday, March 24th. They will begin the slate with a trio of games in State College, PA against the Penn State Nittany Lions. A pair against Nebraska and a trio against Northwestern at home will follow.
The Hawkeyes will see Drake in Des Moines before heading out to East Lansing, MI for a trio against the Spartans of Michigan State. Maryland will visit for three before the team heads to Macomb, IL to see Western Illinois and then off to Minnesota for a trio of games.
At the end of April, the Hawkeyes will have a five-game slate bookended against a pair of rivals. They tangle with Iowa State to start, facing Rutgers for a trio of games before capping off the homestand with a game against Northern Iowa.
The 2022-23 regular season campaign will come to a close when the Hawkeyes head to Madison, WI to face off against the rival Badgers. The hope is that the Hawkeyes will have booked their place in the NCAA tournament well before this point but the season will tell the tale.
𝗔𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗛𝗮𝘄𝗸𝗲𝘆𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗲𝗱! 💛🖤
— Iowa Softball (@iowasoftball) November 9, 2022
A Quick Look at the Hawkeyes
Now that we know what the road to the NCAA tournament looks like, it bears looking at what the Hawkeyes will look like heading into the season. It is important to note that this is the fifth season for head coach Renee Gillispie, who is still trying to fill the mammoth opening left by former coach Gayle Blevins.
Gillispie added a pair of new coaches to her staff by hiring Mandy Gardner and Brian Levin.
The team has 16 returning players while adding a pair of transfer students and a whopping 10 freshmen.
There is hope that Soo-Jin Berry, Shamya Clark, Devin Bowman, Jena Young, Jaylee Ojo, Georgia Lessmann, Devin Simon, Ellie Lynch, and Andrea Jaskowiak will add to the depth and create a few standouts along the way.
The key returning player for the Hawkeyes is Nia Carter. Carter was an NFCA All-Region First Team selection, leading the Hawkeyes in hitting last season with a .403 average. She isn’t the only returning member of the team; there are six others from the prior year that started half of the games or more for Iowa. Even better, Iowa is returning their entire pitching staff from the prior season while adding a few freshmen arms to the rotation.
It is hoped that the returning core group, with an entire pitching staff, will be able to bring the Hawkeyes back to the tournament once again. The sledding will be tough, including a long and arduous Big Ten conference schedule. Hopefully, the Hawkeyes can start the season off on the right foot and see growth and consistency throughout.