Feb. 16, 2004
IOWA CITY –
Opening Weekend, Take Two
The Hawkeyes will try and start the 2004 season for the second time when they travel to Tempe, AZ, for the Louisville Slugger Classic on the campus of Arizona State University. Iowa will open with Wisconsin at Noon on Friday, then follow that with a game against Illinois State at 2 p.m.
Iowa will battle Utah State at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, then tackle Arizona State at 4 p.m. The Hawkeyes will finish the tournament with a second game against Arizona State, Sunday at 10 a.m. All times are Central.
Rain at Georgia State
The Hawkeyes ran into some heavy downpours during their trip to Georgia State last weekend, and left without playing a game. Iowa was scheduled to play Georgia State, Arkansas and Tennessee Tech in the four-team tournament.
Opening in Arizona
With rains washing out play at Georgia State, the Hawkeyes will now get a chance to extend their streak of 13 consecutive years starting the season at the Arizona State Tournament. The last time Iowa played its first game of the season outside the state of Arizona was in 1990, when the Hawkeyes traveled to New Mexico.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Hawkeyes welcomed a talented class of three freshmen and one junior college transfer to the team this fall.
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.