Hawkeyes Open Home Season This Weekend

March 23, 2004


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Mama I’m Comin’ Home

The University of Iowa softball team will finally get to play in the friendly confines of Pearl Field this weekend when they host the Hawkeye Classic. Wisconsin and Ball State will provide the competition. The Badgers and Cardinals will open things up on Saturday at 11 a.m. Wisconsin and Iowa will play at 1 p.m., followed by the Hawkeyes and Ball State.

Wisconsin and Ball State will play again Sunday at 11 a.m., with Iowa battling Ball State at 1 p.m. and the Badgers at 3 p.m.

Before the Hawkeye Classic, Iowa will squeeze in one more road game when they travel to Normal, IL, for a single game with Illinois State. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.

Looking Back at Sacramento

The Hawkeyes started fast but faded down the stretch in a seven-game run in Sacramento, CA. Iowa swept a doubleheader with Sacramento State last Wednesday by scores of 2-1 (8) and 6-0. The Hawkeyes then played in the Sacramento State Capitol Classic, where they defeated Saint Mary’s (7-0), then lost to Utah State (2-1), Long Beach State (3-0), Long Island (2-1) and Nevada (2-0).

Game one in the Sacramento State doubleheader was a thriller, with Elisha Huse giving Iowa the win with an eighth-inning RBI single.

In game two, Iowa left no doubt by putting four runs on the board in the third and scoring another two in the sixth.

Iowa started the Capitol Classic on a high note, getting home runs from Emily Gerlick and Natalie Johnson in a 7-0 rout of Saint Mary’s.

Things went downhill from there, however, as the Iowa bats went into hibernation. Utah State scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the seventh to steal a 2-1 win.

On the second day things got worse when Long Beach State pitcher Meredith Cervenka threw a perfect game against Iowa. Game two was no better, as an RBI single in the top of the seventh propelled Long Island over Iowa, 2-1.

The dry spell continued on the final day against Nevada, who took a 2-0 win with a two-run, seventh-inning home run.

Countdown to 1,000

Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins is closing in on an astonishing milestone. With 986 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 14 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 1,104 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,034.

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

Going Back To Their Roots

After a few years off, this weekend will mark the return of the Hawkeye Classic. The tournament has always marked the beginning of the home season for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have not held it the past two years.

The last time Iowa played in the Hawkeye Classic was in 2000, when Iowa went undefeated against Eastern Illinois, Creighton and UW-Green Bay in pool play, then defeated Creighton in the finals.

The Hawkeye Classic was scheduled in 2001, but it was called due to frigid temperatures.

They Call it the Streak

During their spring break swing out in California, the Hawkeyes had a season-long winning and losing streak.

Iowa won four-straight between the NIST, Sacramento State doubleheader and Capitol Classic, and have lost four-straight since losing the second game of the Capitol Classic against Utah State.

The Hawkeyes will look to break their season-long losing streak against Illinois State on Wednesday.

Scouting Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers are currently 15-12 on the season, one of those wins coming at the expense of the Hawkeyes in Iowa’s season opener (6-3).

The Badger offense is led by Kris Zacher, who is hitting .376 with two home runs and 18 RBIs. Boo Gillette is another formidable bat with a .346 average and a team best 19 RBIs.

The pitching staff is missing its longtime ace Andrea Kirchberg, who graduated last season, but has shored up with Katie Layne (8-5, 2.93 ERA) and Eden Brock (6-5, 1.57 ERA).

The Hawkeyes own a 16-2 all-time record against Wisconsin.

The Badgers are coached by Karen Gallagher, who is in her ninth year at the helm.

Scouting Ball State

The Ball State Cardinals are currently 4-15 on the season.

Kris Burdine is the Cardinal’s leading hitter with a batting average of .328. She also has two triples and five RBIs. Darla Dewig leads the team in runs batted in with 12.

In the circle, Ball State uses a five-person staff led by Rachel Cleveland, who is 1-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 45 innings pitched.

The Cardinals are coached by Terri Laux, who is in her eighth season.

Don’t I Know You?

The Hawkeyes will see a familiar face in the Ball State dugout this weekend in former player Karin Wick, who is an assistant coach with the Cardinals.

Wick was a two-time all-Big Ten selection as a Hawkeye, including first team laurels in 1990.

With the Whiff

Junior Lisa Birocci is currently second in the Big Ten with 123 strikeouts. The defending Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has an impressive 4.6 K/BB ratio and is averaging 9.57 strikeouts per seven innings.

She Hits Too

Not only is Lisa Birocci a great pitcher, but she can hit a bit too. The Des Moines native is currently leading the team with a .321 batting average.

Getting On

Junior Sarah Thomson has been enjoying her best season in the batter’s box. The Rocklin, CA, native is third on the team with a .288 batting average and is second on the squad with a .362 on base average.

A Monster With the Sacks Packed

The last thing an opposing pitcher wants to see is Kylie Murray in the batter’s box when the bases are loaded. So far this season, Murray is 2-for-3 with the sacks packed. Last year as a freshman, Murray was 4-for-5 with two grand slams when the bases were loaded.

Double A in the Circle

Hawkeye sophomore Ali Arnold has become a strong force in the circle for Iowa this season.

The Bloomington, IL, native leads the team with a 9-5 record and has a 1.39 ERA.

Arnold also has 74 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings pitched. Last year as a freshman, she totaled only 93 punchouts all season.

Freshman With Fast Feet

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 twice.

Run Support

While All-American pitcher Lisa Birocci starts in the circle, the Hawkeyes are averaging 2.23 runs. In Birocci’s seven losses, the Hawkeyes have scored just seven runs.

When sophomore Ali Arnold starts, Iowa has scored 49 runs (3.76 per game). In her five losses, Iowa has scored only five runs.

Contact Hitter

Sophomore Stacy May is going to make you work to get her out. In 84 at bats, the Reno, NV, native has only struck out twice.

Keep the Rally Going

Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .275, but her average jumps to an amazing .500 (8 of 16) with two outs.

Gerlick is also hitting .462 with runners in scoring position.

Loving Sacramento

Senior Amanda Hentges must love the weather in California, as she hit .333 for the trip.

Hentges did especially well in Sacramento, where she hit .364 with four doubles and four RBIs between the Sacramento State doubleheader and the Capitol Classic.

Shutout Central

In a way, it has been an all-or-nothing year for Iowa this season. Fifteen of the 27 games Iowa has played in have been shutouts on one side or another. The Hawkeyes have a 9-6 record in shutouts this season.

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.