April 25, 2007
IOWA CITY – With one swing of her bat, Iowa softball player Emily Nichols was able to accomplish something that has never been done in Hawkeye history.
In the sixth inning of a game on March 31 against Indiana, Nichols blasted a home run, the 30th in her Iowa career. That homerun also put her in first place on Iowa’s all-time home run list, edging out Alicia Gerlach’s 29 homeruns from 1999-2002.
“I never really thought I would ever break a record when I first came here. I am just happy that I can help the team be successful,” said Nichols, a junior from Portland, Oregon. “This is my greatest personal accomplishment, but I am confident that we can achieve greater things as a team.”
Even before she was a Hawkeye, Nichols was a power hitter. She was a four-time all-state and all-region selection in high school and was a part of the 2002 ASA National Champion team, Sun Supply. She also helped lead her team to three-straight conference championships and four-straight state tournament appearances. With three home runs, a grandslam and 11 RBIs, she holds the state record in homeruns and RBIs in a game.
As a Hawkeye, Nichols has continued to improve her power numbers. In 2005, the first team NFCA Mideast all-regional pick broke the single-season home run record with 16. She is the only Hawkeye to hit more than 10 in a season. In addition to home runs, she also led the team in slugging percentage (.633), RBIs (49), and walks (28).
While her numbers were down last season, Nichols contributed in other ways. With a depleted infield, Nichols played catcher, first base, and third base. She learned to play third base in less than two weeks to assist the team. Offensively, she led the Hawkeyes in doubles (14) and RBIs (34). Her .315 batting average was second on the team. She also belted five home runs.
“This is my greatest personal accomplishment, but I am confident that we can achieve greater things as a team.”
Junior Emily Nichols
This season Nichols has continued to set records. She started the season with a 28-game hit streak, which is the longest in Big Ten history and seventh longest in NCAA history. Her nine home runs, this season, also gives her a chance to break her own season high in home runs.
Hitting for power and consistency is something unusual, but Nichols has been able to do it her entire career.
“It’s a rare combination,” said Head Coach Gayle Blevins. “You often see major league baseball players be a power hitter and lead the league in strike outs. What’s great is that Emily gives quality at bats every time. Even when she does get out, she hits the ball to someone hard or they make a nice catch. She has both power and consistency.”
While her offensive abilities often get the headlines, Blevins is also impressed with her defense.
“She’s a very multi-dimensional kind of player. I don’t know any coach in college who doesn’t want that kind of player. We don’t typically have a huge roster. To have someone capable of playing three positions on the infield and have offensive abilities is pretty impressive,” said Blevins.
In addition to becoming more consistent as a player, Blevins has watched Nichols turn into a strong leader on the field.
“She’s moved her game to another level. She’s a player who’s not arrogant. She’s not into having to be noticed. She plays well and knows she can help the team.”
Head Coach Gayle Blevins
“She’s by far more consistent. She’s matured a lot in terms of her approach. She weathers the low spots better than she did. She’s more consistent in how she approaches things. I’ve seen more leadership from her,” said Blevins.
“Early in her career she was quiet. She led by example. Since we’ve put her behind the plate, she’s commanded the ball more. She’s definitely more confident with her interaction with the pitcher and the pitching coach. She’s really stepped up. She’s moved her game to another level. She’s a player who’s not arrogant. She’s not into having to be noticed. She plays well and knows she can help the team.”
Nichols also believes she has become more of a role player on the team.
“Because my role has changed defensively, I feel I have more of a presence on the field,” she said.
Nichols hopes she can continue her hot-hitting streak and the team can continue to improve this season. She said she’s confident the Hawkeyes can be in the running for a Big Ten Title and a chance to play in the World Series. Personally, she’d also like to become an All-American.
As for Blevins, she’s happy Nichols was able to break the record. And also happy it’s over.
“It was nice. But I’m happy it’s over,” said Blevins. “Now it’s a matter of how high she’ll set the bar for someone else. I think it can get hyped too much. I’m glad she broke it, too. It’s just nice.”
By Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information
Click HERE for more information about the Big Ten Network.