SOFTBALL: Cyclones prepare for final tune–up before Big 12 season

Michael Zogg —

Iowa State has been hitting its stride over the last week and a half as it heads towards the conference season.

The Cyclones (18–12) will have their final tune–up before the conference season starts on Tuesday as they travel to Omaha, Neb., for a double header against Creighton (14–9) beginning at 3 p.m. at the CU Sports Complex.

“We are excited for conference so these two games are getting us ready,” said sophomore outfielder Bianca Lopez.

This tune-up against Creighton will be big for the Cyclones to preserve some momentum going into the conference schedule. Last season Iowa State had trouble in the Big 12 going 7–11.

“Last year, the conference season was kind of shaky but we really picked it up at the end of the season,” Lopez said. “We want to have that at the beginning this year.”

The Cyclones are currently on a five game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 13 games. The boost in wins has been accompanied by a boost in runs.

“We are being more successful offensively,” Lopez said. “A lot of us are stringing big hits together when we need them, when we have runners on. Before we would always leave runners on or nobody would hit the ball, maybe they were thinking too much. I think now everyone is just relaxing and doing their thing.”

Both the offensive punch and the relaxed state of mind will be put to the test against Creighton, however.

The Blue Jays feature one of the best pitchers in the country in senior Tara Oltman. Oltman, who is a three–time All–American pitcher already owns two wins, a save and a sub–1 ERA against Iowa State in their previous three meetings.

Most of the Cyclones have faced Oltman before and are confident that they will have more success against her this time around.

“When you are facing a good pitcher, like we have been, you are not always going to get a hit and it’s not going to be any different tomorrow,” said coach Stacy Gemeinhardt–Cesler. “If they come out tomorrow and hit right away, then great. That is what we want. But if they don’t, they need to just regroup, refocus and know that they have the skills to put the ball in play, which they all do.”

With a little help for the team’s new offensive strength, the team likes its chances against the Blue Jays.

“As long as we put the ball in play, I feel really good about us playing against Creighton and having success,” said Gemeinhardt–Cesler. “I know that our team can do that.”

Iowa State currently sits at 799 wins in program history. If they can manage at least one win, they will break the 800-win barrier.