Hawkeyes Head to Regionals

May 17, 2004


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The Second Season

The University of Iowa softball team will head to the 2004 NCAA Region V Tournament in Lincoln, NE, this weekend. It is the second-straight year the Hawkeyes have gone to Nebraska for the Regional Tournament.

Iowa is the No. 5 seed and will face No. 4 seed Mississippi State in the first round. The game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

The California Golden Bears are the No. 1 seed in the Nebraska Region, while the host Cornhuskers are the No. 2 seed. Florida Atlantic is the No. 3 seed, Creighton is No. 6, while No. 7 Lehigh and No. 8 Maine round out the field.

The winner advances to the Women’s College World Series.

One and Done at Big Tens

The University of Iowa softball team was eliminated from the 2004 Big Ten Tournament by the sixth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes Friday, 5-1.

Ohio State’s Kristi DeVries threw a seven-inning, one-hit gem to pick up the win for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first off a two-run double from DeVries. Lisa Birocci walked the first batter of the game, Karisa Evans, and Megan Schwab reached on an error to set the table for DeVries.

The Buckeyes added another run in the second when Chelsea Baker led off with a single and scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Evans.

Three-straight singles in the top of the third forced Iowa to make a pitching change, and Ali Arnold came in to replace Birocci. Arnold got two quick outs to get out of the jam.

In the top of the fourth, Ohio State loaded the bases with one out and got an RBI single from Schwab to make the score 4-0. Arnold then got Jamee Juarez to ground into a 5-2-3 double play to prevent any further damage.

A pair of walks and a bloop double to left gave the Buckeyes another run and a 5-0 lead in the top of the fifth.

Emily Gerlick broke up the no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth with a rocket shot over the left field fence.

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 1,009-470-5.

Only two other Division I coaches have hit the millennium mark. Fresno State coach Margie Wright has 1,126 wins, while JoAnn Graff of Florida State has won 1,053.

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 709-322-3. She is the all-time winningest softball coach at Iowa.

Hawkeye Regional History

The Iowa Hawkeyes have been selected to the NCAA Regional tournament 12 times and have a 26-23 (.530) all-time record in regional play.

The Hawkeyes have advanced to the Women’s College World Series four times (1995-97 and 2001).

Tournament Format

The NCAA Regional Tournaments consist of an eight-team field in a true double-elimination tournament.

Sixty-four teams have been invited into the regional field, with 26 conference champions receiving automatic bids and 38 teams getting at-large bids.

Iowa Against the Field

The Hawkeyes have a combined record of 26-38 against the teams at the 2004 NCAA Region V Tournament, and a 2-0 record against first-round opponent Mississippi State.

Iowa is 8-8 against California, 7-9 against Nebraska, 1-2 against Florida Atlantic, 6-19 against Creighton and 2-0 against Maine. The Hawkeyes have never faced Lehigh.

Regionals in Lincoln

This is the third time Iowa has competed in NCAA Regionals held at the University of Nebraska.

Iowa is 4-4 all-time in regional play in Lincoln.

Last Year’s Tournament

The Hawkeyes were 3-2 in last year’s regional at Lincoln, NE.

Iowa, the No. 3 seed, opened up with a 5-0 win over Pacific.

After Hofstra pulled a first round upset of Nebraska, the Hawkeyes shutout the Pride 3-0 in their second-round matchup.

Iowa ran into a buzz-saw in the third round, falling 11-0 in five innings to the Washington Huskies.

The Hawkeyes rebounded in the loser’s bracket with a 2-1 upset of second-seeded Nebraska to earn a rematch against Washington.

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, it earned them another date with Washington, who ended Iowa’s season with another 11-0 loss.

2003 All-Tournament

Four Hawkeyes were named to the NCAA Region V All-Tournament team last season in Nebraska.

Lisa Birocci, Amanda Hentges, Kristin Johnson and Lindsey Bashor were all honored for their play.

Big Ten Awards

The Hawkeyes were well represented on the 2004 all-Big Ten teams, getting four players on the three all-conference teams.

Natalie Johnson, a sophomore, was named to the first team as an outfielder. She hit .284 in conference play with nine RBIs and scored a league-best 17 runs. Overall, Johnson leads the Hawkeyes with a .302 average.

May, a sophomore, was named to the second team as a shortstop. She was second in the conference with 24 hits and had a .369 batting average in Big Ten play.

Birocci was named to the second team as a pitcher. The junior from Des Moines was 11-3 with a 0.87 ERA in conference play. She leads the Big Ten with an Iowa single-season record 285 strikeouts, along with a league-best 113 strikeouts in conference play.

Gerlick, a sophomore from Wonder Lake, IL, was named to the third team as a second baseman. She leads the Big Ten with five triples and two three-baggers in conference play. She also hit .288 with nine RBIs in the Big Ten season.

Iowa’s Secret Weapon

Hawkeye first baseman Sarah Thomson has had a lot of luck in her career against California in the pitching circle.

Thomson has started for the Hawkeyes the last four times Iowa and California have locked horns, with the Hawkeyes owning a 3-1 record in that span.

The senior has a 1-0 record in her 20 1/3 innings pitched and has a 1.03 ERA against the Golden Bears. She has given up just 12 hits, while striking out 11.

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 285 strikeouts on the season.

Birocci in the Big Ten

Junior Lisa Birocci was one of the most dominant pitchers in the Big Ten, and currently leads the conference with 285 strikeouts.

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

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 led 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 .263 with a team-best five triples, five home runs and 28 RBIs.

Junior Abbie Ruff has started 39 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 .466 on base percentage when leading off an inning.

Hitting When it Counts

Sophomore Emily Gerlick is hitting .263 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.

In a Pinch

Hawkeye pinch hitters are hitting .292 as a team.

Elisha Huse is the most successful pinch hitter for Iowa, hitting .500 (4 of 8) on the year.

Freshman Mindy Heidgerken leads the team with 12 pinch hit appearances.

A Monster With the Sacks Packed

If Kylie Murray comes to the plate with the bases loaded, it might be best to walk her.

The sophomore is hitting .500 (4-of-8) with the sacks packed this season, after hitting .800 (4-of-5) with the bases loaded last season.

That gives Murray an unbelievable .615 career batting average with the bases juiced.

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.