May 3, 2004
IOWA CITY –
Closing Out the Regular Season
The University of Iowa softball team will finish up the regular season this week with a home game against William Penn on Tuesday (6 p.m.) and a pair of road games at Illinois Saturday and Sunday. Both games with Illinois will start at noon.
Three Outta Four Ain’t Bad
Last weekend, the Hawkeyes took three-out-of-four Big Ten games against Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Hawkeye bats were silent in game one against the Golden Gophers, as Piper Marten threw a no-hitter to give Iowa a 2-0 loss.
The Golden Gophers scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the second inning. Hailee Nanchy led off the inning with a single. After pinchrunner Christina Zimmerman was sacrificed over to second, Rachel Keeney hit a line drive single to left to bring home Minnesota’s first run of the game. After Keeney was sacrificed over to second, freshman Rene Konderik doubled off the left field wall to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead.
On Saturday, Iowa found its bats and pounded out eight hits in a 6-2 win, including doubles from Natalie Johnson and Laura Chipman. Johnson was three-of-four on the day with two runs scored and an RBI.
Minnesota tied things up in the top of the second on an RBI triple and a run-scoring wild pitch. Those were the only two runs Iowa starter Ali Arnold would give up on the day. She threw seven solid innings and allowed just four hits.
Iowa took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Stacy May, then added three more insurance runs in the fourth to take a 6-2 lead.
In game one against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes took advantage of some sloppy glovework by the Badgers in the top of the first to push across the games only run. With one out, Amanda Hentges reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on an error by the third baseman. She moved over to third on a passed ball, then scored on a wild pitch.
In game two, Iowa took a 3-0 lead in the first off RBIs from May, Kylie Murray and Arnold. The Hawkeyes then got insurance runs in the third and sixth to give them a 5-0 lead.
Arnold went the distance for Iowa, allowing three hits and striking out four.
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 1,008-467-5.
Only two other Division I coaches have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,123 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,048.
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 708-317-3. She is the all-time winningest softball coach at Iowa.
Van Vlymen to Resign
Hawkeye pitching coach Holly Van Vlymen has announced she will resign at the end of the season to pursue a job as a kindergarten teacher.
She recently was hired by Virgil Grissom Elementary School in Princeton, IA.
Van Vlymen has coached at Iowa four years, working primarily with the Hawkeye pitching staff. She coached former Hawkeye Kristi Hanks to first team all-America honors and her second-consecutive Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award in her first season on staff. She also guided Lisa Birocci to third team all-America laurels and a Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award last season.
Together with Gayle Blevins and fellow assistant Michelle Venturella, Van Vlymen was part of the Hawkeye staff that was named the NFCA Midwest Regional Coaching Staff of the Year last season.
Scouting William Penn
The William Penn Lady Statesmen are 35-19 overall with a 9-3 conference record.
The Lady Statesmen offense is led by Kristina McNew, who is hitting .324 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs. Steph Christner is hitting .320 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs.
Christner is also William Penn’s top pitcher. She is 16-11 with a 1.25 ERA and 220 strikeouts.
Alexis Pikuza is 18-6 with a 1.61 ERA and 171 strikeouts.
William Penn leads the all-time series 4-5. Iowa won last year’s meeting 3-0.
The Lady Statesmen are coached by Mike Christner, who is in his third year.
The Illinois Fighting Illini enter the week with a 37-18-1 overall record and a 12-6 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
Illinois has a strong hitting lineup, with four players hitting above .320. The Fighting Illini offense is led by Jenna Hall, who is hitting .331 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.
The Illinois pitching ace is Amanda Fortune, who is 23-9 with a 1.18 ERA and 151 strikeouts. Fortune is even better in conference play, where she is 8-2 with a 0.71 ERA.
The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series with Illinois 6-3.
The Fighting Illini are coached by Terri Sullivan, who is in her fourth season at Illinois.
Looking Towards the Big Ten Tournament
Last weekend the University of Michigan finished its Big Ten Schedule with a 17-3 record, locking up the 2004 regular season championship and securing the right to host the Big Ten Tournament May 13-15.
Iowa (14-4) will be either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Hawkeyes need to win just one game this weekend against Illinois to lock up the No. 2 seed. If the Fighting Illini sweep Iowa, they will be the No. 2 seed.
Breaking Her Own Record
Junior pitcher Lisa Birocci broke the Iowa single-season strikeout record last weekend with a punchout against Wisconsin.
Birocci now has 267 strikeouts on the season, topping the record she herself set last year (260).
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 267 strikeouts.
She also on top of three conference-only categories. Birocci leads the Big Ten in wins (11), innings pitched (89) and strikeouts (105) in league play.
Good With the Glove
The Hawkeyes have always been a good defensive team, but Iowa has really been flashing the leather lately.
The Hawkeyes haven’t made an error in the last six games, and are riding an errorless streak of 42 innings.
Big in the Big Ten
Hawkeye shortstop Stacy May is hitting a solid .293 this season.
Her average jumps up 80 points in conference play, where she is hitting .373. May is second in the Big Ten with 22 hits in conference play.
The Reno, NV, native led the conference in hitting during Big Ten play last season as a freshman with a .450 average
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 tied for second in Big Ten play with teammate Kylie Murray with 11 RBIs.
Crossing the Plate
Johnson has scored 16 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 .255 with a team-best five triples. Junior Abbie Ruff has started 35 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 .464 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 .355. It vaults to .370 with runners in scoring position.