March 2, 2004
IOWA CITY –
Speeding Through the Speedline
The University of Iowa softball team will travel to Tampa, FL, this week to take part in the Speedline Tournament. The 24-team tournament starts off as a round-robin for seeding, then ends with the top three seeds of each pool heading into a single-elimination championship bracket. The fourth seeds of each pool will go into a consolation bracket.
Iowa will play Baylor at noon Thursday, then Boston University at 2 p.m. The Hawkeyes will take on Northern Illinois Friday at 2 p.m., then play an exhibition with the U.S. Olympic team at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Iowa will finish pool play with Troy State at 10 a.m. and Tennessee-Chattanooga at noon. All times are Central.
Looking Back at Louisville
The Hawkeyes went 3-1 at the Red and Black Tournament in Louisville, KY, last weekend. They defeated Toledo 3-0, Western Kentucky 3-0 and Louisville 4-0. The only blemish on Iowa’s record came in a 2-0 loss to Louisville in the championship game.
In game one, Lisa Birocci dominated the game from the pitching circle, throwing a two-hit shutout and striking out 13 hitters. The 2003 all-American allowed only two baserunners the entire game.
The Hawkeyes took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when pinch runner Abbie Ruff came around on a Toledo error. Iowa got a pair of runs in the fourth off a two-run double from second baseman Emily Gerlick.
In game two against Western Kentucky, it was sophomore hurler Ali Arnold’s turn to dominate. The Bloomington, IL, native threw the second two-hit shutout of the day, fanning seven while walking only one.
Gerlick picked up another two RBIs, while freshman Sami Baugh knocked home a run with a pinch-hit single in the fourth.
In the first game against Louisville, Arnold tossed a three-hit shutout, struck out eight while walking none.
All the Hawkeye offense came in the top of the third. Sophomore Kylie Murray gave Iowa a 1-0 lead with an RBI double, then classmate Gerlick blasted a three-run home run to stretch the lead to 4-0.
The offense dried up in the second game, as the Hawkeyes were unable to push any runs across in the 2-0 loss.
Birocci had a fine outing in taking the loss, allowing only four hits and striking out 12.
Countdown to 1,000
Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins is closing in on an astonishing milestone. With 977 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 23 games shy of winning her 1,000th NCAA Division I game.
Only two Division I coaches have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,087 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,016.
Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,011 wins.
Hawkeyes In the Rankings
The Iowa Hawkeyes are ranked 21st in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Coaches Poll, and 22nd in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll. Michigan is the only other Big Ten team in the rankings (11/12).
UCLA holds down the top spot in both polls.
Star Spangled Game
The Hawkeyes will have the unique opportunity of playing the greatest team on the planet while in Florida. Iowa will take on the defending Gold Medal-winning United States Olympic Team in an exhibition Friday.
Team USA is on its “Aiming For Athens” exhibition tour, and is 10-0 so far. Only two teams have lasted a full seven innings against the Olympians.
The team features some of the best players in the world, including Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez, Natasha Watley and Jenny Topping.
Sophomore Ali Arnold has been a one-woman terror for opponents so far this season. The Bloomington, IL, native dominated hitters in a pair of games in Louisville, posting a 2-0 record and a 0.00 ERA.
For the season, Arnold is unbeaten at 4-0 and has a team-leading 0.58 ERA. She has given up just two earned runs. Arnold has notched 32 strikeouts and allowed only six walks.
Gerlick Gone Wild
Sophomore second baseman Emily Gerlick is on fire in the batters box, and leads the team with a .429 average.
Over the weekend in Louisville, Gerlick knocked in seven of Iowa’s ten runs scored and hit her first-career triple and home run.
Coming into the season, the former walk-on had only one career at bat.
Feel the Breeze
After setting the Iowa single-season strikeout record last season, Lisa Birocci shows no signs of slowing down.
In Louisville last weekend, Birocci struck out 13 in a 3-0 shutout of Toledo, then turned around and fanned 12 in a 2-0 loss against the Cardinals.
For the season, Birocci has 41 strikeout and is averaging 11.04 per seven innings.
Feel the Breeze II
Last season, Ali Arnold was not known as a strikeout artist, notching 93 in 151 1/3 innings pitched.
This season, however, Arnold is throwing harder and sending more hitters to the bench with no contact. The sophomore has punched out 32 hitters on the year, 7.23 per seven innings.
Stick ’em Up
The Hawkeyes have a long tradition of stealing bases, and this year is no exception. Senior Laura Chipman leads the way by going a perfect 4-of-4 in steal attempts this season. Mindy Heidgerken (3-of-3) and Emily Gerlick (2-of-2) are also perfect on the basepaths so far.
Hit ’em Up
Sophomore Kylie Murray is taking advantage of her first shot at a starting role. The Des Moines native has been in the starting lineup in every game, at third base or as the designated hitter.
Murray currently leads the team in hits (11) and doubles (3). She is hitting .344 with five RBIs and a .438 slugging percentage.
The Pitchers Can Hit Too
Not only do the Hawkeyes starting pitchers dominant in the circle, but they can hit the ball pretty well too.
Starter Lisa Birocci is third on the team with a .364 batting average. She has eight hits with a triple and a home run on the year.
Ali Arnold is hitting .313 with six RBIs and leads the team with two home runs.
Rocklin, CA, native Sarah Thomson has been one of the top Hawkeye hitters this season, and is second on the team with a .375 average and nine hits. Thomson leads the way with a .464 on base percentage.
In the field, Thomson is the Hawkeyes’ starting first baseman. She also serves as Iowa’s third pitcher.
Stacy May, the Hawkeyes’ top returning hitter from a year ago, is quietly putting together another successful season. The sophomore from Reno, NV, is hitting .321 with a double and three RBIs.
On defense, May moved from third base, where she was a first team all-Big Ten selection last season, to shortstop.
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.
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.
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.