April 16, 2004
Head softball coach Gayle Blevins is just happy that her 1,463rd game is over. But the coach, in her 17th year at Iowa, has accomplished what only two other Division I coaches have done. On Friday night, she won her 1,000th game, with a 9-1 run-rule victory over Coe College at Pearl Field.
“It’s one of those things you don’t want your kids focused on, or feel pressure or anything like that,” she said. “A lot of times when they become aware of one of those things, they try too hard. I’m just glad it’s over with.”
Blevins’ 1,000th win is her 700th at Iowa, and she joins Margie Wright at Fresno State and JoAnn Graff of Florida State in the millennium club. But when asked whether she would stay on for another thousand at Iowa, Blevins was simple: “I’ll leave that for the next coach, how about that?”
For leadoff hitter Natalie Johnson, who hit her team-leading fourth homerun of the season in the game, the victory was an opportunity to give something back to the “best coach” she’s played under.
“It was great,” Johnson, the right fielder, said. “Coach has done so much for this program and so much for us. It’s just nice to be able to give something back. She really deserves this win.”
Following the handshakes at the end of the game, the players tried to give more than a win to the coach. The traditional coolers of water and Gatorade made appearances, but Blevins wasn’t going to have anything to do with a dousing.
“They thought that I would not be able to get out of their way, but I told them their aim wasn’t that good,” the coach said with a laugh. “I turned around and saw the first one coming, and I knew there were others.
“They tried three times, they missed on 2 ?, but I did get bits of the last one.”
Sami Baugh, the Hawkeyes’ catcher, was one of the team’s revelers.
“She’s quick,” Baugh said of Blevins. “She works out everyday, and could beat me in a race. It’s just real exciting. There’s so much energy, and everyone is so up. I’m glad this is her 1,000th win.”
“It was great. Coach has done so much for this program and so much for us. It’s just nice to be able to give something back. She really deserves this win.”
Right fielder Natalie Johnson on Coach Blevins 1,000th victory
Baugh had reason to be happy for herself as well. With a long, fly ball to right field in the bottom of the fourth inning, the freshman nailed her first homerun of the season, driving in first baseman Sarah Thomson who had doubled off the right-field wall moments earlier.
“It felt really good off the bat,” Baugh said. “I just had it, pretty much.”
For a team not usually known for overwhelming hitting, Iowa dispatched the Kohawks with 14, including Johnson’s and Baugh’s homeruns. Coe, meanwhile, mustered just one hit – a double by Ashley Wagner to leadoff the fourth.
“I think they were a little tight at the very beginning,” Blevins said. “But then we kind of settled in offensively. Sami’s homerun kind of lifted us there.”
Wagner scored the Kohawks’ one run off a suicide squeeze by Beth Rohlena. Until the fourth, Iowa’s Ali Arnold had had a perfect game, and the sophomore pitcher finished with nine strikeouts and one walk, facing 20 batters.
“Coe had a lot of confidence when they scored off their suicide squeeze,” Blevins added. “It was just important for us to answer back, which we did. It put the pressure back on them, and maybe convinced them that that was the extent of what they were going to see.”
The Hawkeyes closed the door on Coe with a six-hit, five-run sixth inning.
After the fanfare and the easy win, Blevins and her team were looking ahead to noon on Sunday, when they will face Michigan in a key Big Ten doubleheader at Pearl Field. Iowa (29-15) is undefeated in Big Ten play, and it hopes to keep its 11-game winning streak alive.
“We have a series this weekend we have to prepare for, and we don’t want any distractions,” Blevins said. “Each one counts the same. We have a chance to take care of ourselves. What you always hope is to be in the position to take care of your own destiny. It’s just that we’re in control of our own situation right now, and we want to stay in control of that.”
Arnold (14-7) agreed with her coach.
“It’s good that we have this game behind us, so we can focus on Michigan now,” she said. “We took care of what we had to do today, and we can do the same on Sunday. We’re going to take the same approach and hit the ball just as we did, and do the things we have been doing, and we’ll be fine.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com