Hawkeyes Open Season In Florida

Feb. 8, 2005


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Opening Weekend
The Hawkeyes open up the 2005 season in Deland, FL at the Stetson Invitational Saturday and Sunday. Iowa plays Virgina Tech at 10 a.m. and Stetson at 3 p.m. both days. All times are Eastern.

2004 Year in Review
The 2004 season was an eventful one for the Hawkeyes. Iowa went 39-24 and tied for second place in the Big Ten with a 14-6 record.The Hawkeyes advanced to the NCAA regional tournament for the 12th time in school history. Head Coach Gayle Blevins also became only the third head softball coach in NCAA history to record 1,000 career wins. She also recorded her 700th win at Iowa.

New Tournaments in 2005
Both the Stetson Invitational and Buzz Classic are new additions to the schedule this season. The Buzz Classic will be held March 4-6 in Atlanta, GA.

Hawkeyes in the Rankings
The Hawkeyes are listed as receiving votes in both the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association and the ESPN-USA Softball preseason polls. Michigan is ranked 8th/12th, Illinois 22nd/25th. Northwestern and Michigan State both received votes. California tops both polls.

Honors Abudant in `04
Five returning starters received postseason honors last season. Senior Lisa Birocci was named first team all-regional while juniors Natalie Johnson and Kylie Murray earned second team all-regional honors.
Johnson also earned first team all-Big Ten honors while Birocci made the second team. Junior Stacy May was also a second team selection while junior Emily Gerlick was named third team all-Big Ten.

Old Faces, New Places
Juniors Kylie Murray and Emily Gerlick will move to the outfield this season after spending the previous two years in the infield. Murray played third base while Gerlick played second. Gerlick will see time at both center and left field while Murray will play left or right field.

Mixing It Up
A couple Hawkeyes will play multiple positions this season. Freshman Emily Nichols will see time behind the plate and at first base. Freshman Stephanie Ackerson will primarily play first base but could pitch in short relief.

Tweaking the Infield
The Hawkeye infield will see some old and new faces this season.
Senior Abby Ruff returns as Iowa’s gold glove winner at third base while Stacy May will play shortstop.
Newcomers will patrol the left side of the infield. Freshman Summer Downs gets the starting nod at second base while a trio of newcomers will fight for time at first base. Freshmen Emily Nichols and Stephanie Ackerson along with junior college transfer Brandi Sargent are all in the mix at first.

All Over in the Outfield
Iowa’s outfield will see some shuffling this season.
Natalie Johnson and Jenna Spratt are prospects for right field. Mindy Heidgerken and Emily Gerlick will see time in center field while Gerlick, Heidgerken, Spratt and Kylie Murray will play in left field.

Splitting Time Behind the Plate
Sophomore Sami Baugh and freshman Emily Nichols are expected to split time at catcher. Baugh started 37 games behind the plate in 2004.

Returning power in the Lineup
The Hawkeyes return their top four hitters. Natalie Johnson led the team with a .314 batting average. Kylie Murray and Stacy May led the team with 56 hits. Ali Arnold hit .282. Johnson, Birocci and Gerlick tied for the team lead with five home runs.

Breaking Records
Senior Lisa Birocci shattered her own single-season strikeout record last season. Birocci set the school record during the 2003 season with 267 strikeouts. She destroyed the record in 2004 with 313 K’s. Birocci also topped four conference-only categories in 2004. She led the Big Ten in wins (11), opposing batting average (.166), strikeouts (113) and strikeouts looking (29).

Bilbao Returns to Iowa
Former All-American Debbie Bilbao has been hired as Iowa’s new assistant coach. Bilbao was head coach at Utah State from 2002-04 before making the move back to Iowa. As a player, Bilbao helped guide the Hawkeyes to three straight College World Series appearaces (1995-97) )nd still holds three school records. Bilbao will be Iowa’s pitching coach.

Successful Fall Season
The Hawkeyes went a perfect 10-0 during the fall exhibition season. Iowa picked up wins over North Dakota State, Drake, Iowa State, Indian Hills C.C. and Kirkwood C.C.

Quoting Coach Blevins
“We are really excited to be opening the season this weekend. We had a very successful fall season and now we are ready to see what our winter training will produce. I think our progress has been outstanding over the past few months. We have some excellent returning players along with some solid newcomers. This is our first time playing outside since the fall and the team is very anxious to play. We hope these first few games will help solidify some things and show us what we need to improve on as the Big Ten season rolls around.”