Hawkeyes Head to Louisville

Feb. 25, 2004


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The Black and Gold at the Red and Black

The University of Iowa softball team will travel to Louisville, KY, this weekend to take part in the Red and Black Tournament, hosted by the University of Louisville.

The Hawkeyes will open with Toledo Saturday at 11 a.m., then play Western Kentucky at 1 p.m. Iowa will battle Louisville at noon on Sunday, then play at either 2 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on its seeding.

Opening Weekend in Arizona

The Hawkeyes opened the 2004 season at the Louisville Slugger Tournament in Tempe, AZ, and went 3-2 on the weekend. Iowa defeated Illinois State, Utah State and Arizona State, while losing to Wisconsin and Arizona State.

In the season opener with Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes were plagued by spotting fielding in a 6-3 loss. Iowa did out-hit the Badgers 12-6, but the four errors were too much to overcome. The loss was only Iowa’s second ever at the hands of Wisconsin.

Iowa rebounded in game two to take a 7-3 win over Illinois State. Stacy May was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Laura Chipman and Ali Arnold each hit home runs. Arnold also pitched seven strong innings and struck out nine in picking up the win.

On day two, Iowa started things off on a positive note by taking down Utah State, 5-1. Kylie Murray led the Hawkeye attack by going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. In the circle, Lisa Birocci allowed only one hit and struck out 13 in six innings of work. Arnold pitched the seventh to pick up her first career save.

The next game proved to be the biggest win of the weekend for the Hawkeyes, as they blew out No. 22 Arizona State, 9-0 in five innings. Iowa pounded out 13 hits and were led by Arnold, who was 3-of-3 with a home run and five RBIs. The sophomore was also dominant in the circle, allowing only five hits in recording her first shutout of the season.

Sunday’s rematch with Arizona State didn’t go as well for Iowa, as the Sun Devil pitching staff managed to hold down Iowa’s bats for seven innings in the 3-0 loss. Birocci pitched the first three innings of the game and took the loss.

Last Year at Louisville

The Hawkeyes had a rain-shortened run at the Red and Black Tournament last season, getting in only a pair of games before inclement weather washed out the final day.

Iowa took advantage of the games it played, picking up a pair of big wins. The Hawkeyes toppled Louisville 9-1 in six innings, then blasted out Indiana State, 11-0 in five innings.

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 974 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 26 games shy of winning her 1,000th NCAA Division I game.

Only two Division I coach have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,083 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,007. Arizona’s Mike Candrea is just two wins shy of 1,000.

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

Hawkeyes In the Rankings

The Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked 19th in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Coaches Poll, and tied for 21st in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll. Michigan is ranked 7th/12th.

UCLA holds down the top spot in both polls.

Attack of the Arnold

Sophomore Ali Arnold was a one-woman terror for opponents last weekend in Arizona. The Bloomington, IL, native dominated all aspects of her game, hitting a team-best .556 with two home runs and six RBIs. Her weekend RBI total is more than she knocked in her entire freshman year.

Arnold was just as dominant on the mound, going 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA. She also struck out 17 batters in 17 innings pitched and picked up her first career save.

.400 Club

After a hot-hitting opening weekend in Arizona, the Hawkeyes have five players with a batting average over .400.

Ali Arnold leads the way with a .556 average, followed by Sarah Thomson at .500. Lisa Birocci is hitting .455, while sophomores Kylie Murray and Emily Gerlick are both hitting at a .444 clip.

Shaping Up Quickly

In their first action outside all season, the Hawkeyes struggled in the field during their first two games, making a combined seven errors. They cleaned up their act quickly, however, and didn’t make a single error in any of their last three games.

First Career Hit

Freshman third baseman Mindy Heidgerken picked up her first career hit while in Arizona, a single against Utah State. The Long Grove, IA, native also picked up a pair of stolen bases on the weekend.

Lucky 13

Against Utah State last Saturday, fireballer Lisa Birocci picked up where she left off last season, sending batters back to the bench.

The Des Moines native struck out 13 batters in Iowa’s 5-1 win over the Aggies, Birocci’s second-highest single-game total – her highest in a seven-inning game. She struck out 17 batters in a 4-0, eight-inning game against Georgia State on Feb. 22, 2003.

New Faces All Around

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.

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.

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.

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.