Feb. 9, 2011
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The University of Iowa softball team opens its 2011 season on the road at the Black and Red Showcase in Athens, Ga., Feb. 11-13. The Hawkeyes square off against Lipscomb and Maryland on Feb. 11, East Carolina and host Georgia on Feb. 12 and Illinois State on Feb. 13. All five games will be contested at Jack Turner Stadium.
ON THE WEB
Fans can follow the action at hawkeyesports.com, where live stats (Gametracker) will be available. The live “GT” can be found under the calendar tab on the right-hand side of the hawkeyesports.com home page, or on the softball schedule page.
Iowa will be provided a stiff challenge in its opening weekend of play, as all five opponents qualified for the NCAA Regionals a season ago. The host Bulldogs advanced to the final four of the 2010 Women’s College World Series.
Lipscomb is receiving votes in the top 25 rankings after winning the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament titles in 2010. The Lady Bisons are picked to repeat as A-Sun regular season champions. Whitney Kihul, the 2010 A-Sun Pitcher and Player of the Year, was tabbed as the 2011 A-Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year after posting 33 victories and a 0.95 ERA a season ago.
Maryland returns eight starters and 15 letterwinners from a team that posted a 34-24 overall record last year. The Terrapins are picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2011.
East Carolina returns four starters and 11 letterwinners from its 2010 squad that went 44-18 overall and claimed the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. Toni Paisley is back to lead the Pirate pitching staff after finishing with a 31-11 record, 1.09 ERA and 356 strikeouts last season. Paisley was named to the ASA Top-50 Watch List.
Georgia, the tournament host, is ranked in the top-five of both preseason polls, coming in at No. 3 in the USA Today/NFCA and No. 4 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. The Bulldogs return eight starters and 16 letterwinners in 2011, which includes Alisa Goler and Taylor Schlopy, who are both on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top-50 list.
Illinois State was tabbed as a preseason co-favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference along with Southern Illinois after posting a 32-20 record and advancing to the NCAA Regionals in 2010. The Redbirds return six starters and 11 letterwinners this season.
? The Hawkeyes are a combined 38-17 against the five opponents at the Black & Red Showcase.
? Iowa is 34-17 all-time against Illinois State, 2-0 against Georgia, 1-1 against Maryland and 1-0 against East Carolina. Friday’s season opener against Lipscomb will be the first meeting between the two schools.
? Iowa head coach Marla Looper is familiar with East Carolina. The Pirates knocked Looper and the Texas Longhorns out of the NCAA Austin Regional last season by the count of 1-0.
TWO-TIME ALL-BIG TEN SELECTION RETURNS
Two-time all-Big Ten selection Liz Watkins returns behind the plate for her junior season in Black and Gold. Last season, Watkins was a second team all-Big Ten selection after batting .328 with seven doubles, five triples, five home runs and 26 RBI. As a freshman, Watkins was a third team all-Big Ten honoree, hitting .331 with nine jacks and 45 RBI.
The Hawkeyes have a youth-filled roster in 2011, as 11 of the 16 student-athletes are underclassmen. The Iowa roster is comprised of three seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and five freshmen.
MOVIN’ ON UP
A pair of Hawkeyes enter the season among the career statistical leaders in school history. Junior Liz Watkins is tied for 13th with 14 career home runs. Senior Chelsey Carmody is tied for 15th with 95 career runs scored, while sitting just outside the top 10 in career triples with nine.
CARMODY BACK TO ANCHOR INFIELD
Senior Chelsey Carmody returns to anchor the infield for the Hawkeyes after starting 47-of-48 games during her junior season. The Missouri native made 34 starts at shortstop a season ago, finishing with a .327 batting average with a team-best 51 hits, seven home runs and 32 RBI.
IN THE CIRCLE
Sophomore Chelsea Lyon returns as the most experienced pitcher on the Hawkeye staff after appearing in 29 games as a true freshman. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native posted nine victories with a 2.95 earned run average. She struck out 48 batters in 102.0 innings.
Freshman Kayla Massey joins the collegiate ranks after earning ESPN Third Team All-American honors as a senior at Trabuco Hills High School. The California native posted a 0.32 ERA in 2010 and struck out a school record 250 batters in 2010.
FROM CALI TO THE MIDWEST
One fourth of Iowa’s roster is comprised of players from the state of California. Senior Stephanie Ochoa (Stanton) is joined by a trio of freshmen in Brianna Luna (Indio), Nikki Gentile (Martinez) and Kayla Massey (Foothill Ranch).
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
For the first time since 1988, the Hawkeyes will have a new head coach in charge of the Iowa softball program. Marla Looper takes over the reigns as the Hawkeye head coach, coming to Iowa City from the University of Texas, where she spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach.
During her stint in Austin, Looper helped lead the Longhorns to nine NCAA Tournament berths, four Big 12 regular season titles and a pair of Big 12 Tournament championships.
Looper served as Texas’ pitching coach from 1999-2005 and mentored softball great Cat Osterman to the USA National Player of the Year Award in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Texas’ pitching staff led the nation in earned run average in three of Looper’s final four years as pitching coach, while Osterman led the country in 2003 and 2006 in both earned run average and strikeouts per seven innings.
FORMER HAWKEYE RETURNS TO STAFF
Four-year letterwinner Stacy Johnson (formerly Stacy May) returns to the Hawkeye coaching staff after wrapping up a stellar professional player career in the National Professional Fastpitch league.
Johnson, who started every game in her Iowa career, was a three-time NFCA all-Mideast Region selection for the Hawkeyes. In 2003, she was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the Hawkeyes to the regular season and conference tournament titles.
The Hawkeyes will be frequent fliers prior to opening their home season at Pearl Field on March 20. Iowa will rack up nearly 7,000 frequent flier miles (6,789) with trips to Georgia, Arizona, Florida, California and Florida (a second time).
TOUGH SCHEDULE IN 2011
The Hawkeyes will play a challenging schedule in 2011, as 12 of their opponents participated in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Two of Iowa’s foes — Tennessee and Georgia — both advanced to the 2010 Women’s College World Series.
Iowa has made four Women’s College World Series apperances (1995, 1996, 1997, 2001) and it has played in 16 NCAA Tournaments in school history. The 16 appearances are the second most in Big Ten history.
The Hawkeyes have won four Big Ten Conference regular season championships and two Big Ten Tournament titles.