Nov. 2, 2009
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IOWA CITY – The fall season means different things to different people. For some, it means the leaves changing colors and moving from shorts to long sleeves. For others, it means football and tailgaiting. But for Iowa Head Softball Coach Gayle Blevins, it means preparation and practice.
The Hawkeye softball team recently wrapped up its fall, “non-competitive” season, with “non-competitive” meaning the games don’t count against the overall record in the spring. Make no mistake, however, the fall is more than competitive in Division I softball.
Iowa hosted a total of seven games over three weekends at Pearl Field, and finished the fall season with a 4-3 record. The Hawkeyes opened with a pair of tough losses to Illinois State Sept. 20, but bounced back Sept. 26-27, with wins over Iowa State and Drake. After Iowa dropped another hard-fought contest against Northern Iowa that weekend, the Hawkeyes wrapped up the fall schedule with wins over Kirkwood and Mt. Mercy Oct. 11.
Blevins’ team is a work in progress after losing seven seniors, including five starters, from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. The Hawkeyes have plenty of new faces, with the addition of four freshmen, two junior college transfers and two walk-ons. Blevins is quick to point out that the fall is a great time for development.
“We have a lot of new faces,” Blevins said. “We are very happy with how our fall season went. We switched many people around to new positions, just to get the best team on the field. The fall is a great time to see where people will fit into our program once the `official’ season starts rolling.”
Some of those new faces include freshmen Johnnie Dowling (Des Moines, Valley HS) and Chelsea Lyon (Broken Arrow, OK). Dowling made great strides during the fall and took charge of center field, which was vacated by Sam Heinzman, who transferred to Iowa from South Dakota State for her senior season in 2009. Lyon, along with senior Amanda Zust, will look to fill the hole left by Brittany Weil at pitcher, who graduated with nearly every Hawkeye pitching record.
“Johnnie’s defensive skills were very impressive this fall,” Blevins said. “She showcased numerous abilities with both her glove and arm. Chelsea also made great strides for a freshman pitcher. She will be fun to watch grow over the next few months.”
Some other changes include junior Chelsey Carmody moving from second base to shortstop, replacing the graduated Erin Riemersma, who roamed the Hawkeye infield at shortstop for the previous three seasons. Senior Lindsey Digmann started her career in Black and Gold as an infielder, but was shifted to the outfield during her sophomore season. Digmann is now taking reps in both left field and around the infield to help the team fill gaps.
“Lindsey is really stepping up as a senior,” Blevins said. “We are asking her to do a lot of things, and she is responding in a very positive way. Those are things you like to get out of fall softball.”
“Both Katie and Liz are great leaders for us,” Blevins said. “Their attitude everyday at practice is something we want our younger kids to model. They work hard every day, and it shows in their results.”
Two new faces in the Hawkeye lineup this year could be junior college transfers Stephanie Ochoa (Iowa Lakes Community College) and Sarah Spiering (Indian River Community College, FL). Both Ochoa, who is from the same hometown (Garden Grove) as former Hawkeye all-American Brittany Weil, and Spiering, will be looked upon for offensive support this spring.
“Both of our junior college transfers show a lot of promise offensively,” Blevins said. “They are aggressive at the plate, and will continue to work on their defense leading up to the spring.”
So as the seasons change from fall to winter, the Hawkeye softball team will be patiently waiting for the calendar to turn to January. That’s when the first day of “official” practice begins, and the time they can show just how much the fall season paid off.