Hawkeyes Kick Off 2004 Season

Feb. 9, 2004

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Opening Weekend

The Hawkeyes kick off the 2004 season at the Georgia State Tournament in Atlanta next Saturday and Sunday. Iowa will open with Georgia State at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, then tackle Arkansas at 4:45 p.m. On Sunday, the Hawkeyes will play Tennessee State at 12:25 p.m., then head into championship play. The consolation game will be played at 2:30 p.m., while the championship game will start at 4:45 p.m. All times are Eastern.

Defending Champions

The University of Iowa softball team will head into the 2004 season defending and undisputed Big Ten Champions. For the first time in the history of the program, the Hawkeyes captured both the regular season and tournament championships in the same season.

Iowa finished the regular season on top of the Big Ten standings with a 13-4 record. That sent the Hawkeyes into the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed, where Iowa won three-consecutive games to capture the tournament championship.

Countdown to 1,000

Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins is closing in on an astonishing milestone. With 971 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 29 games shy of winning her 1,000th NCAA Division I game.

Going into the 2004 season, only one Division I coach has hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright enters the 2004 season with 1,078 wins. Two other coaches are poised to eclipse 1,000 wins this season along with Coach Blevins. JoAnn Graff of Florida State is just five wins shy (995), while Arizona’s Mike Candrea needs 18 wins (982).

Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,011 wins.

Iowa at Georgia State

The Hawkeyes have always had good luck in Georgia, winning the Georgia State Tournament the past two years.

The Hawkeyes have an all-time record of 9-1 in the Georgia State Tournament and have never failed to win the championship.

In 2002, Iowa went 5-0 in Atlanta and defeated Tennessee in the championship game 13-1. Last season, Iowa was 4-1 at Georgia State and beat the host Panthers, 4-1, in the final game.

Change of Pace

For the first time in 14 years, the Iowa softball team will open its season in a place other than the campus of Arizona State. The last time Iowa kicked off a season outside of Tempe, AZ, was the 1990 season, when Iowa traveled to New Mexico.

Hawkeyes In the Rankings

The Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked 17th in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Coaches Poll, and 18th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll. Michigan is ranked 7th/10th, while Michigan State is ranked 25th/24th.

UCLA holds down the top spot in both polls.

Shuffling Like a Dealer in Vegas

The Hawkeyes will definitely have a new look in the infield this season, with each position sporting a new face this year.

Sarah Thomson will take over duties at first base, while Emily Gerlick will be Iowa’s primary second baseman. Stacy May will move from third base to shortstop, while freshman Mindy Heidgerken or Kylie Murray will take May’s old spot at third.

With the graduation of four-time all-Big Ten selection Jessica Bashor, Elisha Huse and freshman Sami Baugh will split time behind the plate.

New Outfield, Too

The infield isn’t the only place to see new faces. All three outfield spots will have a new look, too.

Laura Chipman will move from left to centerfield, where she will replace Katie Boney. Amanda Hentges will move from first base to left, while Natalie Johnson will play in right. Freshman Jenna Spratt will serve as the utility outifelder this season.

Arms Race

While the Hawkeyes may have said goodbye to some of their most productive hitters from last season, Iowa returns its entire pitching staff from a year ago.

All-American Lisa Birocci returns for her junior year after posting a 29-9 record with a 1.29 ERA and 267 strikeouts last season as a sophomore.

Ali Arnold returns after a successful freshman year in which she went 14-6 with a 1.47 ERA.

Senior Sarah Thomson will once again anchor the bullpen and provide spot starts for the Hawkeyes.

Record Breaker

Fireballer Lisa Birocci etched her name in the Iowa record books in just her second year in the Black and Gold. The Des Moines native struck out 267 batters, shattering the Iowa single-season record.

Her record-setting punchout came in Iowa’s 3-0 win over Hofstra in the NCAA Regional Tournament held in Lincoln, NE.

The previous best was Karen Jackson’s 252 in 1993.

Domination

Lisa Birocci enjoyed a dominant year last season.

The Hawkeye ace threw an astounding nine one-hitters on the year, and threw her first-career no-hitter against Indiana on April 20.

Birocci one-hit Utah State (twice), Georgia State, Texas A&M, UNLV, Illinois State, Penn State, Purdue and Drake.

May Day

Freshman Stacy May burst on the scene last year in a major way. The Reno, NV, native led the Big Ten with a .450 batting average in conference play, picking up first team all-Big Ten and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

This season, May will make the move from third base to shortstop, where she will replace two-time all-American Kristin Johnson.

Power Surge

The ball was flying off the Hawkeyes’ bats this season, and a school record fell as a result.

Iowa hit 41 home runs as a team last season, six more than the previous record of 35, which was set in 1997.

Kristin Johnson led the team with eight round trippers.

OK, Let’s Get Two

The strength of the Hawkeye defense last year was up the middle, and it showed in the number of double plays they turned.

Iowa turned 26 double plays, breaking the Iowa single season record.

The previous record was 21, which was set in 1997.

Gerlick Named MVP

Emily Gerlick was named Most Valuable Player of the AFA National Championships, held in Beaumont, TX, July 29-August 1.

Gerlick, a sophomore infielder from Wonder Lake, IL, led her DuPage Wildcats team to the 2003 AFA Under 18 National Championship, becoming the first team from Illinois to accomplish that feat.

In the championship game against the defending champion California Running Rebels, Gerlick provided a season’s worth of fireworks by hitting a two-out, two-strike, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Wildcats the national championship with a 2-0 win.

Gerlick finished the tournament with a .396 average to go with her 13 runs scored. She also hit three triples.

Welcome Aboard

The Hawkeyes welcomed a talented class of three freshmen and one junior college transfer to the team this fall.

Sami Baugh, Mindy Heidgerken and Jenna Spratt make up this year’s freshman class, while Abbie Ruff will have two years of eligibility after transferring from Waubonsee Community College.

Each player is a native of the state of Iowa. Baugh from Johnston, Heidgerken from Long Grove, Spratt from Oxford and Ruff from Garwin.

Park Leaves Team

Iowa sophomore second baseman Stephanie Park decided to end her collegiate softball career last week and will not be on the Hawkeye roster this season.

Park suffered a stress fracture in her foot during the offseason, and complications from that injury prompted her to call it a career.