May 12, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the first game of a Big Ten Conference softball twinbill Saturday, Minnesota had more hits and more base runners than the University of Iowa. What carried the Hawkeyes was defense and junior Katie Brown.
Brown was 2-for-2 with two solo home runs — one each in the second and fourth innings — as Iowa defeated the Gophers 2-0 at Pearl Field.
“On the Big Ten stage, on the national stage, it’s a dream come true,” Brown said of her back-to-back blasts. “It’s kind of amazing for me to think about hitting home runs against Minnesota…the Big Ten, Division I…it’s a great feeling.”
The Gophers out-hit Iowa 5-3 in the opener and stranded eight base runners compared to four by the Hawkeyes. In the nightcap, Iowa used a three-run third inning and a second straight shutout from pitcher Brittany Weil to finish with a 3-0 victory. The Hawkeyes (42-14 overall, 13-7 Big Ten) completed the regular-season home slate with an 11-3 mark.
“It felt pretty nice to be swinging the bat this way at home and in the Big Ten regular season finale,” Brown said. “It also shows about our defense and how we can come together at the end. We have a strong defense to get out of situations.”
Brown, along with senior shortstop Erin Riemersma, are the only Iowa players to start all 56 games this season. Brown has drawn a team-high 22 base on balls and is second on the squad with a .357 batting average and 12 doubles. She is third among Hawkeyes with 55 hits, seven home runs and 33 RBI.
The Brown home runs — and the two-game sweep of the Gophers — assured the Hawkeyes of advancing to an NCAA Regional for the second year in a row and the ninth time since the 2000 season.
“We’re really determined,” Brown said. “Last year we were excited to host and be at home and I think some of the excitement actually got to us for awhile. This year we’re thinking we can do this and go all the way.”
“It felt pretty nice to be swinging the bat this way at home and in the Big Ten regular season finale. It also shows about our defense and how we can come together at the end. We have a strong defense to get out of situations.”
UI junior Katie Brown
Iowa defeated Creighton (2-1) and Long Beach State (2-1) in Regional play a year ago, but Missouri moved on to Super Regionals after defeating the Hawkeyes 1-0 and 5-4. The last time Iowa advanced to the College World Series was 2001 where it placed seventh.
The Hawkeyes are one of six Big Ten teams to qualify for Regionals, joining Purdue (Louisville Region), Michigan (Ann Arbor), Northwestern (Waco), Ohio State (Columbus) and Illinois (Columbia). Iowa opens Atlanta Region action against Auburn on Friday, May 15, at 4 p.m. Other teams are Boston University and host Georgia Tech.
Brown, a junior from Spirit Lake, Iowa, has at least two prime reasons to stay motivated in the postseason.
“We’re very close to the seniors and we don’t want the season to end,” she said. “I think that’s why we’re so determined to get as far as we can this year.”
Another incentive is the prospect of more games at Pearl Field if the Hawkeyes advance past Regionals.
“If we win, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to host Super Regionals,” she said. “I think we have a good chance.”
Playing at home is an advantage, but UI head coach Gayle Blevins knows her team is more than respectable away from Iowa City as well. The Hawkeyes are 31-11 in away games or cintests at a neutral site.
“We’ve been a great road team and we’ll be ready to go,” Blevins said. “We’re a pretty road-tested team.”