April 27, 2004
IOWA CITY –
The Week Ahead
The University of Iowa softball team will hit the road for five games this week. The Hawkeyes will bus to Macomb, IL, and battle the Western Illinois Westerwinds Wednesday at 5 p.m.
This weekend, Iowa will head to Minnesota for single games Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (noon), then go to Madison, WI, for a Sunday doubleheader with Wisconsin. Game one is set to begin at noon.
Three Outta Four Ain’t Bad
Last weekend, the Hawkeyes took three-out-of-four Big Ten games against Penn State and Ohio State. Iowa swept Penn State by scores of 3-2 (14 innings) and 8-0 (six innings). The Hawkeyes then split a doubleheader with the Buckeyes, losing 3-5 in nine innings, then winning 4-0 in game two.
In Friday’s game against Penn State, Iowa outlasted the Nittany Lions to take a 14-inning win. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 14th, the Hawkeyes were able to take advantage of a pair of Penn State errors to break the tie and steal the win. Natalie Johnson led off with a walk, then advanced all the way to third when an attempted throw to first base went wild on Kylie Murray’s bunt attempt. Murray advanced to second on the play.
Stacy May ended things with a sharp grounder off the glove of the second baseman, allowing Johnson to score the winning run.
Lisa Birocci pitched nine and two-thirds innings of relief to pick up the win, striking out 14 Nittany Lion hitters.
In Saturday’s game, the Hawkeyes took advantage of five Nittany Lion errors, while Birocci silenced the Penn State bats for the second-straight day. The junior allowed only one hit, while striking out seven and walking just three in Iowa’s 8-0 win.
Against Ohio State, the Hawkeyes took a 3-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning of game one, but were unable to hold on. Chelsea Baker led off with a solo home run, then a walk and a single put two runners on and caused Iowa to make a pitching change, bringing in Ali Arnold to replace Lisa Birocci. A single then loaded the bases and a passed ball allowed the Buckeye to cut the score to 3-2. Arnold then walked the next two batters, bringing in the tying run.
In extra innings, the Hawkeye bats were silent and unable to pick up a hit. In the top of the ninth, Ashely Cutcliff hit a towering home run over the scoreboard in center and Christina Douglas had an RBI single to give Ohio State a 5-3 lead and the win.
Iowa responded in game two jumping out of the gates early with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. After Johnson drew a leadoff walk, Birocci brought her around with her team-leading fifth home run.
The Hawkeyes got some insurance runs in the fourth with a two-run home run off the bat of Emily Gerlick.
Birocci cruised through the game, allowing only three hits and striking out six in going the distance.
1,000 and Beyond
Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins reached an astonishing milestone this season, winning her 1,000th career game. Blevins’ current record is 1,004-466-5.
Only two other Division I coaches have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,119 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,046.
Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,014 wins.
Not only has Head Coach Gayle Blevins won her 1,000th career game, but her 1,000th win was also her 700th at the University of Iowa.
Her record at Iowa stands at 704-318-3. She is the all-time winningest softball coach at Iowa.
Scouting Western Illinois
The Western Illinois Westerwinds are 22-25 with a 11-9 record in the Mid-Continent Conference.
A pair of potent bats lead Western Illinois’ offense. Brooke Benson is hitting .331 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs, while Cass Hallstrom is hitting .324 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 37 RBIs.
Karen Marie Pena is Western Illinois’ pitching ace and has a 15-13 record with a 1.83 ERA and 143 strikeouts.
Western Illinois leads the all-time series with Iowa 18-16.
The Westerwinds are coached by Kathy Veroni, who is in her 33rd season.
Hawkeye pitching coach Holly Van Vlymen will have a homecoming this Wednesday when Iowa plays Western Illinois.
Van Vlymen was an all-American for the Westerwinds in 2000, when she was second in the country with a 0.53 ERA. Her number 44 is one of only four retired by Western Illinois.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers come into the week with a 28-19 record and a 7-7 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
The Gophers’ top offensive threat is Meg Higginbotham, who has a .366 batting average to go with her 32 RBIs, five triples and 15 stolen bases.
Another terror on the basepaths is Stephanie Sward, who has stolen 21 bases on the year.
In the circle, the unquestioned ace of the Minnesota staff is Piper Martin. The senior has a 17-10 record with a 0.81 ERA and 204 strikeouts.
Iowa leads the all-time series 42-35.
Minnesota is coached by co-head coaches Lisa Bernstein and Julie Standering. Bernstein is in her 13th season, while Standering is in her fourth.
The Wisconsin Badgers come into the week with a 26-23 overall record and a 5-9 Big Ten mark.
The Hawkeyes and Badgers have met three times this season, with Wisconsin holding a 2-1 advantage. Iowa dropped its season opener to Wisconsin, 6-3, then split a pair of games at the Hawkeye Classic, winning 4-0 and falling 2-1.
Wisconsin’s top hitter is Kris Zacher, who owns a .348 batting average and has four home runs and 30 RBIs. Boo Gillette is hitting .342 with four homers and 32 RBIs.
In the circle, Wisconsin is led by Eden Brock (10-10, 1.77 ERA) and Katie Layne (12-10, 2.90 ERA).
Iowa leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 17-3.
The Badgers are coached by Karen Gallagher, who is in her ninth year.
Breaking Her Own Record
Last year, Lisa Birocci set the Iowa single-season strikeout record with 260 punch-outs.
The all-American hurler is poised to break her own record this season, having recorded 252 strikeouts so far this year.
Birocci in the Big Ten
Junior Lisa Birocci is one of the most dominant pitchers in the Big Ten, and currently leads the conference with 252 strikeouts.
She also on top of three conference-only categories. Birocci leads the Big Ten in wins (10), innings pitched (76) and strikeouts (90) in league play.
Senior first baseman Sarah Thomson has been picking up a lot of two-baggers in this season, and currently leads the Big Ten with five in conference play.
She is also second in Big Ten play with 11 RBIs.
Crossing the Plate
Johnson has scored 13 runs in Big Ten play, good for second in the conference.
The Hawkeye infield has a pair of walk-on athletes in it. Sophomore Emily Gerlick has started every game at second base this season and is hitting .269 with a team-best five triples. Junior Abbie Ruff has started 22 games at third base.
That’s Why She Hits First
Sophomore Natalie Johnson has settled into her role of the Hawkeye lead-off hitter nicely.
The Burlington native has a .483 on base percentage when leading off an inning.
Hitting When it Counts
Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .269 overall, but you wouldn’t want to face her with runners on base. With a runner on, her average jumps to .356. It vaults to .372 with runners in scoring position.