Feb. 17, 2010
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2009-10 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — One unresolved question for the University of Iowa softball program this spring is how to reference senior captain Katie Brown. Is she a first baseman who can pitch, or is she a pitcher who can play first base?
Regardless, it’s common knowledge that Brown can hit.
Brown, a first-team all-Big Ten Conference selection as a sophomore and a second-teamer as a junior, batted .346 in 58 games last season, with 19 extra-base hits and 33 RBI. After spending the majority of her college career as an infielder, Brown will make an occasional return to the pitcher’s circle during her final year.
“It gives us greater versatility on the mound and we are happy to have that,” UI head coach Gayle Blevins said. “In the short time that she’s been back there, you could kind of tell there was this secret wish to spend a little more time there, so she’s pretty fired up about it. There’s no doubt she’ll make a great contribution. She has such good poise on the mound. It’s not just a pitcher we’ll have on the mound, but a great athlete.”
Growing up in Spirit Lake, Iowa, Brown received her greatest acclaim hurling the softball. Her last three seasons, when she won 113 times, Brown was named elite all-state pitcher. She is 18th on the Iowa High School all-time list with 163 pitching victories from 2002-06.
As a Hawkeye freshman in 2007, Brown played 47 games and saw limited action in the circle. She threw eight innings, going 0-1 with eight walks and three strikeouts with a 5.25 ERA. The next two seasons Brown was used solely at first base, while pitchers Brittany Weil and Amanda Zust tossed the majority of innings.
“I’ll definitely see time on the mound — as needed,” Brown said. “(Zust and freshman Chelsea Lyon) are the main pitchers and I’ll hopefully concentrate on first base. If they need me to come in in extra innings, if they need me to start or to close out games…I’m ready for any of the options.”
Not only is Brown adept at multiple positions in softball, but she was a multi-sport standout in high school as well. Brown played basketball for the Indians, where she set 22 school records, and in track and field, she was a three-time state champion in the discus and a four-time Drake Relays qualifier.
The Hawkeye softball team is off to a 3-2 start to the 2010 season. In the first five games, Brown has belted a team-high two homeruns with four RBI. She has also pitched three innings of relief.
“It was very important (to play multiple sports) because it helped with team chemistry,” Brown said.
Spirit Lake is 280 miles and almost five hours away from Iowa City. Even in Northwest Iowa, Brown grew up a Hawkeye.
“I was a Hawkeye fan starting from a very, very young age,” she said. “It’s very cool to represent the state of Iowa. The Northwest corner of the state has very big Hawk fans.”
It wasn’t long into the recruiting process before Blevins noticed Brown’s passion for the black and gold.
“I thought, here’s an Iowa kid that has always loved the Hawkeyes,” Blevins said. “You can’t replace that great love for a university and that’s something very strong in Katie’s life. Not only is she extremely talented and a great leader, she’s brought such incredible skills to us along with the idea of what we call Hawkeye heart.”
Iowa has averaged more than 40 victories in Brown’s three seasons, including back-to-back 42-win campaigns. She would like to return to the regional finals, like the Hawkeyes did in 2008, and being a senior, Brown said, reminds her of unfulfilled goals.
“I have to leave everything on the field,” Brown said. “I have to give everything I have every day in batting, defensively and pitching…this is it. Just saying that kind of sets the tone that this is the last season. It reminds me of what we haven’t accomplished; we haven’t got the Big Ten title and we haven’t made it to the World Series. It kind of puts those goals in perspective.”
“We have a great group of girls who bring great attitudes every day,” Brown said. “They give everything they have, which is a main goal we had at the beginning of the season.”
For much of her career, Brown let her bat do the talking. After all, 110 hits, 65 RBI, 33 runs, 24 doubles and 15 home runs is a pretty impressive body of work. Now she is expanding her role as a team leader.
Iowa returns to action Feb. 19-20 at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The Hawkeyes will play Texas State, Rutgers, Illinois State and Arizona State.
“Katie is not just a leader by example, she’s become a vocal leader, too,” Blevins said. “In past year’s sometimes we’ve been a little bit minus; this year she can talk it and she can walk it…she can do both parts and I think that’s important for us to have both elements.”
During the first game of the final regular-season doubleheader on May 9, Brown belted two solo homeruns, leading the Hawkeyes to a 2-0 victory against Minnesota. That victory at Pearl Field, combined with a 3-0 decision in the nightcap, sent Iowa to the NCAA Regionals for the second year in a row and the ninth time since the 2000 season.
“Hitting a homerun is pretty thrilling, especially twice in a game, which really doesn’t happen a lot,” Brown said. “It revs up the team and energy comes to the team when you’re rounding the bases and getting the crowd going.”
When you carry a big stick to the plate, it’s not uncommon to get pitched around — or pitched at.
“When people start doing well, intentional walks come,” said Brown, who had a team-high 23 free passes last season. “I also remember the Minnesota game when I was hit twice.”
Brown was smacked by three pitches in 2009 — six fewer than catcher Liz Watkins, the team-leader.
An academic all-Big Ten selection, Brown is majoring in elementary education and health and sports studies. She would like to become a teacher and coach, with an eventual goal of entering the administrative side of a school system as an elementary principal or director of athletics.
Before that happens, she will spend the softball season as Katie Brown the hitter…or pitcher…or both.