April 3, 2009
- 2009 Softball Season Ticket Application
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — In her own words, University of Iowa catcher Liz Watkins said she uses her big mouth to motivate teammates. Using her big bat doesn’t hurt, either.
Watkins, a freshman from Taylor Ridge, Ill., combined to go 2-for-6 at the plate during a Big Ten Conference doubleheader April 1 against Illinois at Pearl Field. The two hits — both home runs — provided two game-winning RBI as Iowa swept Illinois 1-0 and 9-1 to improve to 29-7 overall, 3-1 in the league.
The first round-tripper was a one-out, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. The second came with two runners on in the first inning of the nightcap.
“It was good being able to see (Illinois pitcher Monica Perry) two at-bats beforehand,” Watkins said of the walk-off game-winner. “It was a curve ball and I knew she was throwing me out and way. I just went with it and it felt awesome coming off the bat.”
Perry had allowed just one hit before Watkins’ home run. At first, Watkins thought she was simply setting the table for another Hawkeye’s heroics.
“I had no idea it was (a home run),” Watkins said. “I was just trying to get on base to let my teammates move me over. It felt great coming off the bat, but I thought it was more of a line drive than a home run. When I saw it go over the rightfield fence, it was just exhilarating. I was just so happy I could do it for the team.”
For the season, Watkins has started 32 of 34 games. She is batting .351 with a team-high six home runs and 28 RBI. The RBI total is second on the team to Colleen McGlaughlin’s 34.
“We work hard every day in practice,” Watkins said. “I try to take every at-bat the same and I don’t put pressure on myself because when you start thinking when you’re at the plate, that’s when bad things happen. I go out, trust myself and the abilities I have and go with it.”
“I had no idea it was (a home run). I was just trying to get on base to let my teammates move me over. It felt great coming off the bat, but I thought it was more of a line drive than a home run. When I saw it go over the rightfield fence, it was just exhilarating. I was just so happy I could do it for the team.”
UI freshman catcher
Sweeping a twinbill from Illinois gave the Hawkeyes a 4-0 record at Pearl Field this season with Penn State coming to town this weekend for a two-game series (2 p.m. start on Saturday, April 4, and 1 p.m. start on Sunday, April 5). But the victories over the Illini had added significance for Watkins — an Illinois native — who prepped at Rockridge High School.
“My dad is an Iowa softball fan, so I made him get rid of all his Illinois jerseys, basketballs, anything like that,” Watkins said. “It’s that much sweeter because I have a lot of friends who go to the University of Illinois who were all watching the game. They said they were cheering for the Hawkeyes, so that was awesome, too.”
Perry was the starter for Illinois in the second game as well, and despite a different pitching strategy, she didn’t have any better luck against Watkins.
“With two of my teammates getting on, it helped get our bats going,” Watkins said. “She threw me inside, I got my hands out and it felt great coming off the bat again.”
Watkins also had a front-row seat to some pretty fine hurling Wednesday. The Hawkeye winning pitcher in the first game was senior Brittany Weil (14-6, 1.10 ERA), who tossed a perfect game with 13 strikeouts. Weil started the second game, but was relieved by junior Amanda Zust (15-1, 1.35).
“We have awesome pitchers,” Watkins said. “Coming in as a freshman, I couldn’t have two better girls to take me under their wing and show me how Big Ten softball is played. They’re so fun to catch and they make the game easy.”
Weil threw just the third perfect game in Iowa history and she is now three strikeouts away from tying the all-time record of 946 set by Lisa Birocci from 2002-05.
Even as a freshman, Watkins has attempted to lead.
“I don’t like to follow people, I like to be a leader,” she said. “I like to use my big mouth and talk and get everybody going. That’s just kind of who I am. I owe a lot (to the pitchers) because they’re always making me look better than I am.”
The Hawkeyes are currently in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with a 3-1 record (Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota). Northwestern has a two-game lead on that pack with a spotless 6-0 mark.