Iowa Set for Big Ten Tournament

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May 10, 2004

IOWA CITY – The Second Season

The University of Iowa softball team will head to the 2004 Big Ten Softball Tournament in Ann Arbor, MI. Iowa will be the No. 3 seed and take on No. 6 seeded Ohio State Friday at Noon.

No. 2 Illinois and No. 7 Penn State will open the tournament with a 5 p.m. game Thursday. Top-seeded Michigan will face No. 8 Michigan State Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The final first round game will be between No. 4 Northwestern and No. 5 Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. All times are Eastern.

Swept on the Final Weekend

Last weekend, the Hawkeyes were swept in a two-game series against the Illinois Fighting Illini, 2-0 and 5-2. The pair of wins moved Illinois into a second-place tie with the Hawkeyes and gave them the No. 2 seed at the Big Ten Tournament.

Game one was a classic Big Ten pitching dual between Lisa Birocci and Illinois’ Amanda Fortune. Both pitchers threw complete games, with Birocci allowing four hits and striking out seven and Fortune giving up five hits and striking out six.

All nine hits in the game were singles.

The only runs of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Fighting Illini using two walks and a single to load the bases for Katie O’Connell, who ripped a two-run single to give Illinois a 2-0 lead.

Both Iowa runs came on solo home runs by Natalie Johnson and Emily Gerlick. The Hawkeyes recorded six hits on the day.

Johnson gave the Hawkeyes a 1-0 lead in the first with a lead-off home run, her fifth of the year.

Illinois responded in the top of the second by putting up three runs off a sacrifice fly and a two-run single from Sarah Baumgartner.

Gerlick cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth with her fourth home run of the year, but Illinois put two more on the board for a 5-2 lead in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. 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 1,009-469-5.

Only two other Division I coaches have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,125 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,049.

Sandy Jerstad of Division II Augustana ended her career last season with 1,014 wins.

700 Club

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 709-321-3. She is the all-time winningest softball coach at Iowa.

Big Ten Tournament History

The Iowa Hawkeyes have a 17-16 (.515) all-time record in the Big Ten Tournament. The only team with a better record is Michigan, who is 26-9 (.743).

The Hawkeyes are also second in titles won with two (2001 and 2003). Michigan has won the Big Ten Tournament six times (1995-98, 2000 and 2002). Northwestern (1982) and Minnesota (1999) have each won once.

New Tournament Format

The Big Ten Tournament will have a different look this season, as it will move from a six-team, double-elimination tournament to an eight-team, single-elimination field.

Day One, May 13th

Game 1: #2 seed v. #7 seed, 5:00 p.m. ET Game 2: #1 seed v. #8 seed, 7:30 p.m. ET

Day Two, May 14th Game 3: #3 seed v. #6 seed, 12:00 p.m. ET Game 4: #4 seed v. #5 seed, 2:30 p.m. ET Game 5: G1 winner v. G3 winner, 5 p.m. ET Game 6: G2 winner v. G4 winner, 7:30 p.m. ET

Day Three, May 15th

Game 7: G5 winner v. G6 winner, 2:30 p.m. ET

Big Tens in Ann Arbor

Michigan earned the right to host the 2004 Big Ten Tournament by winning the regular season championship with a 17-3 record.

In the 11 year history of the Big Ten Tournament, the conference’s postseason brackets have been played out in only two places, Ann Arbor and Iowa City. Michigan has hosted the tournament in 1982, 1995-96, 1998-99 and 2001-02, while Iowa had it in 1997, 2000 and 2003.

Iowa is 10-13 in Big Ten Tournament games played in Ann Arbor.

Looking at the Finals

No team besides Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State has ever reached the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. Last year’s Iowa-Northwestern final was the first time Michigan failed to make the final game.

Last Year’s Tournament

The Hawkeyes took the 2003 Big Ten Tournament title in one of the most hotly contested tournament fields yet.

Five of the ten games in last year’s tournament played at Pearl Field went into extra innings, including Iowa’s 3-2, opening round win over Illinois.

The top-seeded Hawkeyes then toppled the sixth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats 2-1 in the semifinals, then again by the score of 2-0 in the finals to take their second Big Ten Tournament Championship.

Northwestern was the first No. 6 seed to make the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa’s Lisa Birocci was named the Big Ten Tournament MVP, while Jessica Bashor and Stacy May were also named to the all-tournament team.

Breaking Her Own Record

Junior pitcher Lisa Birocci has broken the Iowa single-season strikeout record, which she set last year (267).

Birocci now has 283 strikeouts on the season.

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 283 strikeouts.

She also on top of four conference-only categories. Birocci leads the Big Ten in wins (11), opposing batting average (.166), strikeouts (113) and strike outs looking (29) in league play.

Big in the Big Ten

Hawkeye shortstop Stacy May is hitting a solid .297 this season.

Her average jumps significantly in conference play, where she is hitting .369. May is second in the Big Ten with 24 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.

Crossing the Plate

Hawkeye lead-off hitter Natalie Johnson leads the team with 38 runs scored this season, 13 more than Stacy May, who is in second place.

Johnson leads the Big Ten with 17 runs scored in conference play.

Walk-on Success

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 .261 with a team-best five triples. Junior Abbie Ruff has started 38 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 .472 on base percentage when leading off an inning.

Hitting When it Counts

Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .261 overall, but you wouldn’t want to face her with runners on base. With a runner on, her average jumps to .344. It vaults to .370 with runners in scoring position.

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.