Jan. 28, 2009
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IOWA CITY – Iowa Head Coach Gayle Blevins and the Hawkeye softball team enter the 2009 campaign striving to take that “extra step” this year. Blevins returns seven starters and 14 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished 42-20 overall, including a third place finish in the Big Ten and appearances in both the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Regional championship game. The Hawkeyes are hoping to add a couple trophies to their already historic and packed trophy case this season.
“We return a lot of experience from a year ago,” Blevins said. “When you look at our team, you will see talent and competition for starting roles at every position. We have the tools to put together a special season in 2009.”
One of the biggest assets of this year’s team that Blevins is quick to point out is depth, both offensively and defensively.
“We return a lot of experience from a year ago. When you look at our team, you will see talent and competition for starting roles at every position. We have the tools to put together a special season in 2009.”
Head Coach Gayle Blevins
“We have many options in terms of a lineup,” Blevins said. “We have great team speed and will have the ability to match our lineup to give us the best chance to win. This team has a great amount of depth, which gives us options to win ball games.”
The following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2009 Iowa softball team.
The Hawkeyes return four infielders who all started at one point or another during last season. Senior Colleen McGlaughlin will have a more permanent home at third base in 2009, after playing the utility role last season. The Morton, IL, native started 27 games at both first and third base, five at shortstop and three in the outfield. She was a first team NFCA all-Mideast region selection and was second on the team with a .341 batting average. McGlaughlin was also one of 11 softball student-athletes to be named ESPN the Magazine Academic all-American.
Sophomore Chelsey Carmody returns as the team’s second baseman. Carmody had a stellar freshman season, batting .320 with 10 doubles and 19 RBI. The St. Louis, MO, native hit her first-career home run in a clutch spot last season, giving the Hawkeyes a seventh-inning lead against Missouri in the NCAA Regional championship game. Carmody also dazzled fans by flashing the leather and making some spectacular defensive plays in her rookie season.
Senior Erin Riemersma returns for her final season in the Hawkeye infield. Riemersma started at second base as a freshman, and has been the starting shortstop for the previous two seasons. Iowa’s middle infield will be one of the best in the Big Ten, with both Riemersma and Carmody covering a lot of ground defensively. Riemersma, who is a product of Orland Park, IL, collected six home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 33 RBI last season.
Shortstop Erin Riemersma returns for her final season in a Hawkeye uniform.
Junior Katie Brown will see time at first base after starting 30 games at the corner last season. The Spirit Lake, IA, native had a breakout sophomore campaign and was named first team all-Big Ten. Brown led the Hawkeyes with a .351 batting average in conference play and heated up at the end of the season, being named Big Ten Player of the Week during the final week of play after going 5-for-6 with three home runs, six RBI, one double and four runs scored in two-game series at Illinois. Brown could also see time as the team’s designated player.
Blevins is also excited about the role that freshman Katie Keim could play. Keim hails from St. Louis, MO, and has the potential to fill in at any of the four infield positions. Keim brings a solid glove and bat to the Hawkeye lineup.
Junior Heidi Daumen, who was given the team’s Peg Augsburger Hawkeye Heart award last season saw action in 26 games with three starts last season at catcher, first base and as the designated player .She collected three hits and scored six runs.
“We have quality all around our infield,” Blevins said. “Erin brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and, combined with Chelsey, they make a great middle infield combination. Add solid players like Colleen, Katie Brown and Katie Keim to the mix, and you have an infield that rivals anyone in the conference.”
Competition will be abundant throughout the season for the outfield positions, as eight players will compete for just three positions. Blevins is hesitant to name front runners for any outfield position, because anyone of the eight has the talent and ability to play left, center or right field.
“We have the most depth in the outfield,” Blevins said. “This is an exciting problem to have. Our outfielders will compete hard in practice every day to show they deserve to be in the lineup. The possibilities in our outfield are great. As a coaching staff, we have the ability to combine many different lineups that suit our needs.”
Junior Lindsey Digmann started all 61 games in the outfield after making the switch from infield last season. Digmann batted .267 with 17 stolen bases and was named to the Big Ten Tournament all-tournament team.
Junior Lindsey Digmann will return in the Iowa outfield.
Senior Quinn Morelock put together a solid conference season in 2008 and was named third team all-Big Ten. The Solon, IA, native batted .276 in Big Ten games and started 48 contests.
Senior Rachel West led the Hawkeyes last year on the base paths, swiping 19 bases in 24 attempts. She also led the team in batting average at .371, but battled injuries late in the season. Blevins is hoping for an injury-free year from West to use her speed both on the bases and in the outfield.
Junior Taylor Leichsenring, from Amana, IA, played in 61 games with 57 starts a year ago. Leichsenring batted. 280 with nine stolen bases, and had clutch hits in both the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern and in Iowa’s elimination game against Long Beach State in the NCAA Regionals.
Sophomore Jenny Schuelke, also from Solon, IA, saw 15 starts in the outfield and five as the designated player. Schuelke wasted no time showing her offensive skills, blasting a solo home run for her first career hit. Schuelke also had a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal win over Michigan State.
Hawkeye fans will also see two new faces competing for time in the outfield. Freshman Missy Mazur trained in the outfield during fall practice, and Blevins was pleased with her offensive approach at the plate. Sam Heinzman, who transferred to Iowa from South Dakota State, has one year of eligibility remaining. Heinzman was a standout centerfielder for the Jackrabbits, starting all 44 games last season. She batted. 329 and led the team in hits (47), runs scored (33), home runs (4), stolen bases (19) and walks (19). The Omaha, NE, native earned first team all-Independent honors in 2007.
Senior Callie Adreon saw limited action in the outfield last year, but was used extensively off the bench as a pinch-runner. Adreon appeared in 57 games and scored 16 runs with five stolen bases last season. “There is so much talent in our outfield,” Blevins said. “We have great offensive weapons and solid defensive players. It will be fun to see who emerges from this group of talented players.”
Iowa enters the 2009 season with one of the top pitching staffs in the country. Senior Brittany Weil and junior Amanda Zust combined for the seventh-best earned-run average in Division I softball last season (1.23), and both have their goals set as being the best in the nation in 2009. Weil was a first team NFCA all-Mideast Region pick and second team all-Big Ten selection last season, finishing with a 28-15 record, 1.22 earned-run average and 296 strikeouts. Her strikeout total in 2008 was the second-highest season total in school history and the Garden Grove, CA, native has nearly every Iowa pitching school record in sight.
Senior Brittany Weil could break many school records this season.
Zust showed solid improvement as a sophomore, and Blevins believes that improved pitch development and a wealth of experience will make her a force in 2009. Zust went 14-5 with a 1.24 earned run average and 120 strikeouts last season. She allowed two hits or less in 13 appearances, including six innings of relief with only one hit and zero runs in Iowa’s upset win over Louisiana-Lafayette early in 2008.
“Brittany and Amanda combined are a phenomenal pitching staff,” Blevins said. “They were nationally ranked a year ago and now the key is to get quality innings out of both. We have the ability to throw two completely different types of pitchers at an opponent, which is in our advantage. The progress that both have made is outstanding and they could lead us to some special things this year.”
The Hawkeyes will have to replace Emily Nichols, who started nearly every game behind the plate last season. Nichols committed only three errors and finished with a .992 fielding percentage.
Both Lindsey and Liz have the ability to help us offensively. They need to work on understanding the game and learning how to help their pitchers, and both have made great progress in that department
Head Coach Gayle Blevins
Sophomore Lindsey Major and freshman Liz Watkins will compete for time at catcher, and Blevins says the competition between the two is “dead even.” Major played in 22 games last season and had five hits, one of which was a pinch-hit double to spark a late rally in the NCAA Regional championship game. Watkins, a native of Taylor Ridge, IL, was named to six all-state teams in high school and was named a Top 100 recruit by adidas.
“Both Lindsey and Liz have the ability to help us offensively,” Blevins said. “They need to work on understanding the game and learning how to help their pitchers, and both have made great progress in that department. We will use some of our early trips to see how they compete in game situations, and we are confident both will respond well.”