March 30, 2004
IOWA CITY –
Bring On the Big Ten
The University of Iowa softball team will open up the Big Ten Conference season this weekend when it hosts Northwestern and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes will take on Northwestern Friday at 6 p.m., then again Saturday at noon. Iowa will then play Michigan State in a doubleheader Sunday starting at noon.
Before that, Iowa will travel to Des Moines Wednesday for a non-conference game with the Drake Bulldogs. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Pearl Field.
Looking Back at the Hawkeye Classic
The Hawkeyes opened their home season last weekend by hosting Wisconsin and Ball State in the Hawkeye Classic. Iowa went 3-1 on the weekend, sweeping Ball State (6-0, 9-0 in five innings) and splitting with Wisconsin (4-0, 1-2). The games against Wisconsin were non-conference games and do not count in the Big Ten standings.
In Saturday’s game against Wisconsin, Iowa jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Natalie Johnson ripped a triple of the very top of the leftfield wall, then came around to score on a double steal with Sarah Thomson.
Iowa took a 4-0 lead in the fifth off a two-run double from Amanda Hentges and a Thomson sacrifice fly. Lisa Birocci allowed two hits and struck out four in the win, while Ali Arnold allowed just one hit in relief.
In game two, Hentges went 3-for-3 with a pair of runs scored, while Birocci hit a mammoth two-run home run in the third to give Iowa the easy 6-0 win. Birocci pitched five innings of relief to pick up the win, allowing just one hit and striking out nine.
On Sunday, the Hawkeyes jumped out to a dominating 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning against Ball State, sending ten batters to the plate in the process. The Cardinals made a pair of costly errors in the inning, and all six runs ended up being unearned.
Iowa added a run in the second, then another pair in the third to take a 9-0 lead. The combination of Arnold and Birocci kept the Cardinals off the board the rest of the way and ended the game by eight-run rule. Seven different Hawkeyes got a hit in the game, with Hentges leading the way by going 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes scored first on an RBI single from Stacy May in the second inning. Birocci was throwing well until making one costly mistake when she gave up a two-run home run to Athena Vasquez in the top of the fifth.
Johnson and Kylie Murray each had a pair of hits against Wisconsin.
Countdown to 1,000
Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins is closing in on an astonishing milestone. With 989 career victories, the Head Hawk is just 11 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 1,108 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,036.
Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,011 wins.
The Drake Bulldogs enter the week with a 15-10 record, but play Iowa State Tuesday night.
The Bulldog offense is led by Jenna Wilkin, who is hitting .362 with three triples and 12 RBIs. The power source for the Bulldogs is Katie Wappler, who has a team-leading three home runs and 14 RBIs.
Drake’s pitching staff is led by Jessica Hicks, who has a 9-8 record on the season.
Iowa has a 27-4 series lead over Drake.
Don’t I Know You?
The Hawkeyes will see some familiar faces when they battle Drake on Wednesday.
Former Hawkeye assistant coach Rich Calvert is in his second year as the head coach at Drake. Calvert was an assistant under Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins for six seasons before taking over at Drake last season.
Former Hawkeye catcher Katy Jendrzejewski is Calvert’s assistant at Drake. Jendrzejewski was an all-Big Ten player during her senior season at Iowa, when she led the team with a .383 average and helped the team to the 2001 Women’s College World Series.
The Northwestern Wildcats are currently 14-8 on the season and ranked 25th by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
The Wildcat offense is led by Erin Mobley, who is hitting .418 with ten RBIs and seven stolen bases. Garland Cooper is another bat to watch, hitting .311 with a team-leading four home runs and 15 RBIs.
Northwestern’s ace in the circle is Courtney Foster, who is 7-6 with a 1.46 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings. Eileen Canney is 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA.
Northwestern holds a slim 39-38 lead in the all-time series. The Wildcats are coached by Kate Drohan, who is in her second season at the helm. Her twin sister Caryl is the team’s first assistant coach.
Scouting Michigan State
The Michigan State Spartans are 17-10 on the season, and play Detroit in a doubleheader Wednesday. The Spartans will also take on Illinois in single games Friday and Saturday before coming to Iowa City.
Michigan State is the top-hitting team in the Big Ten with a .310 team average. Natalie Furrow is leading the way at .471 with two home runs and 26 RBIs. Elizabeth Peterson is hitting .375 with five homers and 19 RBIs.
In the circle, Jessica Beach is the top arm. She is 13-6 with a 1.66 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings pitched.
Iowa leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 56-26.
The Spartans are coached by Jacquie Joseph, who is in her 11th season.
Hot Hitting Hentges
Senior Amanda Hentges is on an absolute tear at the plate as of late.
Since March 17, Hentges is hitting .429 with 15 hits, seven runs score, six doubles, nine RBIs, a .657 slugging percentage and an amazing 1.086 OPS. In that stretch, the Spencer, IA, native has raised her batting average 114 points, from .200 to .314, second best on the team.
Big Ten Arms Race
The Hawkeye pitching staff is seen as one of the best in the Big Ten, and the stats prove the case.
As a team, Iowa is ranked in the top three in eight different pitching categories, ERA, strikeouts, opposing batters average, innings pitched, runs allowed, earned runs allowed, hits allowed and walks allowed.
Sophomore Kylie Murray is hitting a team-leading .324, and is also leading the squad with nine doubles.
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.
Birocci in the Big Ten
Hawkeye junior Lisa Birocci is having another good year, and leads the Big Ten in strikeouts with 147. She is also on top in opposing batting average by holding hitters to .137.
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 nine stolen bases and has only been thrown out twice.
Playing Her Way In
Walk-on Abbie Ruff has made an impact on the 2004 Hawkeyes and earned a spot in the starting lineup. Ruff, a junior who played two years at Waubonsee Community College, has started the last 12 games at third base. She has made just two errors in 38 chances, and is hitting .222 with six runs scored.
Ruff was a two-time first team All-Skyway Conference at Waubonsee and was named the 2003 Skyway Conference MVP.
Sophomore Stacy May is going to make you work to get her out. In 96 at bats, the Reno, NV, native has only struck out twice.
Keep the Rally Going
Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .277, but her average jumps to .435 (10 of 23) with two outs.
She also has a team-leading 10 two-out RBIs.
In a way, it has been an all-or-nothing year for Iowa this season. Eighteen of the 32 games Iowa has played in have been shutouts on one side or another. The Hawkeyes have a 12-6 record in shutouts this season.