Feb. 21, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Iowa softball team, off to its best start in three years, arrived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Thursday for the Bama Bash. No. 1 Alabama is hosting the tournament, which features the Crimson Tide -- the defending national champions -- the Hawkeyes, Winthrop and Western Illinois.
The Hawkeyes, fresh off a title at the Lovelace Invitational, open tournament play on Friday against Winthrop at 1:30 p.m. Iowa continues action later that night against Alabama (6 p.m.). The Hawkeyes will face the same two teams on Saturday. Iowa and the Eagles will meet at 11 a.m., and the Hawkeyes and Crimson Tide will face off at 1:30 p.m.
Iowa concludes action Sunday against Western Illinois. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. All times are Central and all five games will be held at Alabama's Rhoads Stadium.
The Crimson Tide are a highlight on the Hawkeye schedule that includes 13 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
"We have tried to schedule tougher competition, because that is the only way we are going to be better," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "When you are facing the defending national champions in Alabama this weekend, that is how we get better. We play the best, if we can beat the best, then we can become the best and people want to play us. That is what I expect of our program from this point forward and that is why we have these teams on our schedule."
The Hawkeyes will play 10 teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/Division I Top 25 Poll -- Alabama (No. 1), Missouri (No. 7), Louisiana-Lafayette (No. 12), Michigan (No. 15), Louisville (No. 18), Stanford (No. 20), Kentucky (No. 21), North Carolina (RV), Ohio State (RV) and Oregon State (RV). Iowa went 1-1 against the Ragin' Cajuns during the opening weekend (Feb. 8-10).
The win over the Cajuns marked Iowa's first over a ranked opponent since it defeated No. 23 Oklahoma State last year, 5-3, on March 3. No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette is the highest-ranked team the Hawkeyes have defeated since winning at No. 1 Michigan on April, 23, 2011.
Upon arrival in Tuscaloosa, the Hawkeyes were able to utilize time in the batting cages at Rhoads Stadium.
"We were able to get some cardio in early," said Looper. "We got some swings and throws in and got a feel for the field a little bit in the outfield. We also got a feel for the environment. It will be different with people in the stands, but it is nice to get into a nice facility and get some work done."
The Hawkeyes left Iowa City via bus in effort to stay ahead of the impending storm.
"The bus ride is better than being stuck in an airport somewhere," said Looper. "We were fortunate to be able to get out of town before the storm hit. It was good bonding time for the team. Mentally, we are ready to go for the weekend."
Hawkeye fans can follow the Iowa softball team on social media platforms Twitter (@iowasoftball) and Facebook (facebook.com/iowahawkeyessoftball). Game updates will be tweeted during each game. Fans can also follow the action at hawkeyesports.com, where live stats (Gametracker) will be available.