Hawkeyes Open Big Ten Action

March 29, 2005

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IOWA CITY – On the Road Again
The University of Iowa softball team begins a six-game road trip on Wednesday when the Hawkeyes travel to Cedar Falls to face the Northern Iowa Panthers. Game time is set for 3 p.m.

Iowa opens Big Ten Conference play on Friday when it faces top-ranked Michigan at 3 p.m (CST). The Hawkeyes and Wolverines will also play Saturday at 12 p.m (CST).

The Hawkeyes will then travel to Evanston, IL for a doubleheader against Northwestern (24th/20th). The first game of the double dip is scheduled for 12 p.m.

Hawkeyes Claim Classic Championship
Iowa went a perfect 4-0 last weekend to win the Hawkeye Classic. This is the second tournament the Hawkeyes have won this season. Iowa came home with a first place trophy from the Buzz Classic earlier this season.

The Hawkeyes started off with wins over Ball State (4-0) and South Dakota State (9-0, five innings) on Saturday. Iowa defeated Ball State (10-0, six innings) and North Dakota State (2-0) on Sunday to secure the Hawkeye Classic championship.

Ball State finished in second place with a 2-2 record while North Dakota State and South Dakota State both had 1-3 records. North Dakota State finished in third place after the tiebreaker rules were used.

Scouting Northern Iowa
The Northern Iowa Panthers are 10-10 overall and 2-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Erin Strellner leads the Panther offense. She is batting .397 with three doubles, one home run and 10 RBI.

Amanda Hess is 3-2 with a 1.44 ERA inside the circle. Uju Ibekwe leads the team with 60 strikeouts.

Iowa holds a 22-14 advantage in the all-time series.

Scouting Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines (1st/1st) are 31-1 overall. After losing its first game of the year to 17th-ranked Baylor, Michigan has won 31 straight games. They are the first non Pac-10 team to be rated number one in the ESPN/USA Softball poll since 2001.

Tiffany Haas leads the Wolverine offense. She is batting .425 with nine doubles, four home runs and 16 RBI.

Lorilyn Wilson is 12-0 with a 0.27 ERA inside the circle while Jennie Ritter is 14-0 with a 0.76 ERA. Ritter has 128 strikeouts while Wilson has 117.

Iowa holds a 49-41-1 advantage in the all-time series.

Scouting Northwestern
The Northwestern Wildcats (24th/20th) are 18-9 this season.

Garland Cooper leads the Wildcat offense. She is batting .403 with six doubles, one triple, five home runs and 20 RBI.

Eileen Canney is 10-4 with a 1.12 ERA inside the circle. Courtnay Foster is 8-4 with a 1.38 and leads the team with 119 strikeouts.

Iowa holds a 40-39 advantage in the all-time series.

Hawkeyes in the Rankings
Iowa is ranked 21st in the ESPN.com/USA Today Collegiate Softball poll. The Hawkeyes are listed as receiving votes in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. Other Big Ten teams in the rankings include Michigan (1st/1st) and Northwestern (24th/20th). Penn State is listed as receiving votes. Rankings used are from the previous week. Updated rankings are released every Wednesday.

Birocci Has Award-Winning Weekend
Senior Lisa Birocci was named co-Big Ten pitcher of the week for her efforts at the Hawkeye Classic last weekend.

Birocci struck out a combined 24 batters last weekend, which moved her into third place on the career strikeout list. With 794 career strikeouts, Birocci passed Terri McFarland who recorded 791 strikeouts at Iowa from 1989-1992. She also hit .400 with a two-run home run at the Hawkeye Classic. She shares the award with Michigan pitcher Jennie Ritter.

This is the second time this season Birocci has been honored by the Big Ten and the third time in her career.

Nichols Sets School Record
Freshman Emily Nichols entered the record books against Ball State, blasting her 11th home run which broke the single-season record. Nichols added another home run against South Dakota State. She leads the team in seven different offensive categories.

Pitching Staff Throws Shutout
Lisa Birocci and Ali Arnold dominated the Hawkeye Classic last weekend. The duo did not allow a run in four games and threw 25 innings of shutout softball. Birocci and Arnold allowed only 11 hits and struck out 43 of the 86 batters they faced while walking only seven.

Chasing the Record Book
As a team, the Hawkeyes have hit 38 home runs this season. The school record for team home runs in a season is 41, set by the 2003 squad. Iowa also has a team slugging percentage of .487. The team record is .489, which was set in 1997.

Gerlick Undergoes Surgery
Junior outfielder Emily Gerlick underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL on March 15. Gerlick suffered the ACL tear during Iowa’s opening weekend at the Stetson Invitational on February 13.

Venturella Promoted
Michelle Venturella enters the 2005 season as Iowa’s first ever associate head coach. Head Coach Gayle Blevins announced the promotion last July.

Venturella serves as the Hawkeye recruiting coordinator and hitting coach along with coaching the Iowa catchers. As a member of the USA softball team she garnered four medals, one of which was the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

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 appearances (1995-97) and still holds three school records. Bilbao will be Iowa’s pitching coach.