March 16, 2004
SACRAMENTO, CA –
This Week In Sacramento
The University of Iowa softball team will continue its spring break trip this week with a Wednesday doubleheader at Sacramento State, then take part in the Capitol Classic starting Friday.
At the Capitol Classic, Iowa will face Saint Mary’s Friday at Noon, then battle Utah State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Iowa will play Long Beach State at 5 p.m., then battle Long Island at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, the Hawkeyes will end the tournament against Nevada at 11 a.m. All times are central.
Looking Back at the NIST
The Hawkeyes placed third at the National Invitational Softball Tournament last weekend in San Jose, CA. Iowa was 3-2 on the weekend, defeating Santa Clara (4-1), Syracuse (2-0) and Arizona State (3-0). The Hawkeyes fell to No. 8 Washington and No. 3 California, both by the score of 8-2.
Iowa opened the tournament with a tough loss to the Washington Huskies, who pounded out nine hits on the Hawkeye pitching staff, eight of which were singles. Natalie Johnson provided the offensive spark for Iowa, going 2-of-3 with a two-run home run.
The Hawkeyes rebounded to win their next two games against Santa Clara and Syracuse. Against the Broncos, Ali Arnold dominated in the circle by throwing a one-hitter and striking out eight. Mindy Heidgerken was 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Against Syracuse, it was Lisa Birocci’s turn to throw a masterful game, tossing an eight-inning shutout. Iowa was able to take advantage of a pair of Orangewomen errors in the top of the eighth inning to score two runs and take the extra-inning win.
The Hawkeyes were denied a trip to the finals by the high-powered Golden Bears, who handed Iowa its second 8-2 loss of the tournament.
In the third-place game, the Hawkeyes got another great performance from Ali Arnold, who held the Sun Devils to just two hits in picking up the shutout victory.
Countdown to 1,000
Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins is closing in on an astonishing milestone. With 983 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 17 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 1,099 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,028.
Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,011 wins.
Scouting Out the Field
The 2004 Capitol Classic is a round-robin tournament with a total of 28 games being played over three days. A tournament champion will be declared Sunday based on record. If two or more teams are tied, a series of tiebreakers will be used to determine the champion.
Joining Iowa in the field will be Long Beach State, Long Island, Nevada, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Sacramento State, Saint Mary’s, Tennessee State, Utah State and Wisconsin.
Capitol Classic History
The Hawkeyes have finished in the top two at the Sacramento State Capitol Classic in six of the eight years they have played there, winning it three times (1997, 1999 and 2001) and placing second three times (1996, ’98 and 2003).
Last season, the Hawkeyes finished second behind Washington with a 4-1 record.
Iowa has an all-time record of 38-12-1 (.762) in the Capitol Classic, better than any other team in this year’s field.
In fact, Iowa has won more games in the Capitol Classic than any other team in this year’s field has played, except for the host school Sacramento State.
Don’t I Know You?
The Hawkeyes will see a familiar face across the diamond when they battle Utah State, where former Hawkeye Deb Bilbao is the head coach.
Bilbao was a three-time all-American in her Iowa career (1995-98) and is still regarded as one of the best ever to wear the black and gold.
Bilbao led Iowa to the 1997 Capitol Classic title, going 3-0 from inside the circle and allowing only one earned run in 21 innings. At the plate, she was 9-of-18 with four home runs and nine RBIs.
First One’s the Hardest
Sophomore Natalie Johnson hit her first career home run over the weekend. Her two-run shot came in the fourth inning of Iowa’s 8-2 loss at the hands of No. 8 Washington.
Johnson is hitting .277 on the year with three doubles and four RBIs. She has a .404 slugging percentage.
The Burlington, IA, native has played in 19 games this season, starting 17.
Gerlick Gone Wild
Sophomore second baseman Emily Gerlick is currently leading the team with 11 RBIs. The Wonder Lake, IL, native is third on the team with a .298 batting average.
Coming into the season, the former walk-on had only one career at bat.
Sophomore Kylie Murray has been a one-woman wrecking crew in the batter’s box this season.
The Des Moines native is currently leading the team with a .352 batting average, 25 hits and six doubles. Murray also has nine RBIs and a home run.
Feel the Breeze
After setting the Iowa single-season strikeout record last season, Lisa Birocci shows no signs of slowing down.
The junior fireballer has 86 strikeouts in just 58 innings so far this season. That is almost one and a half strikeouts per inning and an average of 10.38 per game.
Ali Arnold has been a Sun Devil killer so far this season. The Bloominton, IL, has dominated Arizona State so far this season, earning a 2-0 record and not allowing an earned run in two games.
Last weekend, Arnold held the No. 20 Sun Devils to just two-hits in a seven inning shutout.
And She’s Off
Hawkeye freshman Mindy Heidgerken has become a terror on the basepaths in her first season.
The Long Grove, IA, native currently leads the team with eight stolen bases, and has only been thrown out once.
Sophomore Stacy May is going to make you work to get her out. In 62 at bats, the Reno, NV, native has only struck out one time.
Making Them Count
Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .298, but her average jumps to an amazing .500 with runners on base.
Gerlick is also hitting .500 with runners in scoring position.
Any Way She Can
Senior Sarah Thomson second on the team with a .308 average, but she owns a team-leading .400 on base percentage.
The Rocklin, CA, native has 11 hits, a team-leading six walks, has reached on two fielder’s choices and one error.
In a way, it has been an all-or-nothing year for Iowa this season. Eleven of the 20 games Iowa has played in have been shutouts on one side or another. The Hawkeyes have a 7-4 record in shutouts this season.
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.