Hawkeyes Make Home Debut Today

March 20, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After racking up more than 7,000 frequent flier miles over the first six weeks of the season, the University of Iowa softball team is anxious to play its home opener at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes get that chance this afternoon, hosting South Dakota in a doubleheader beginning at noon.

“We’re extremely excited to be coming home, as we’ve been on the road the first six weeks of the season,” said UI head coach Marla Looper, who is in her first season with the program. “To be able to play at Pearl Field, in front of our fans, where we know we’re going to get a lot of support is exciting.”

The Hawkeyes bring a 14-12 overall record back to the Heartland, after playing in tournaments in Georgia, Arizona, Florida, California and spending the past 10 days in Florida and Tennessee for their spring break trip.

The team hosts the Coyotes for a doubleheader today, before hitting the road to open Big Ten Conference play next weekend in Columbus, Ohio, against the Buckeyes of Ohio State.

Two seniors have been leading the Hawkeye offensive charge thus far in 2011. Chelsey Carmody had a 25-game hitting streak — the longest streak in the nation — and is pacing the team with a .425 batting average. Fellow senior Stephanie Ochoa, meanwhile, went a perfect 4-for-4 against the Lady Vols to help push her batting average over .400.

Prior to heading to Florida for the spring break trip, Carmody didn’t realize she was in the midst of her hitting streak.

“I didn’t know until right before we left for spring break,” said Carmody. “One of my friends kind of nonchalantly mentioned it, and I was like ‘oh, I didn’t know that.'”

Things didn’t change for the senior captain when she returned to the diamond. All she did at the Stetson Classic was bat .706, collecting hits in 12-of-her-17 at-bats in the tournament. Her performance helped the Hawkeyes claim the team title with a 4-1 record.

Carmody’s streak continued with two hits at the Stetson Hatter Roundup. She then went 1-for-4 in the first game at Tennessee, extending the streak with a third inning single. The streak came to a halt during the second game in Knoxville, as she went 0-for-4.

“A lot of people are all about themselves and Chelsey is so far from that,” said Looper. “Her individual performance was significant for the team as a whole. She didn’t even realize it until part way through, and it really didn’t faze her. She was out there getting her job done and doing what she could to help our team win.”

The key ingredient to team success — the pitching — took a big step forward during the spring break trip. Sophomore Chelsea Lyon and freshman Kayla Massey posted 1.03 and 3.00 ERAs over the past two weeks to set themselves up for a strong showing in Big Ten play.

“Chelsea and Kayla have come a long way over the first part of the season,” said Looper. “This week against Tennessee, facing some of the top hitters in the country, they were able to hold them to five and 10 hits, and that is huge.

“They’re growth is going to spear head us going into conference play, as they’re a key ingredient to our team success.”

Today’s doubleheader against South Dakota will be the final tune-up for conference play, but Looper is ready to get it underway.

“We’re looking to build off what we did the first part of the season,” said Looper. “Ohio State has had a pretty good product on the field, and we have to be able to compete and maintain our game plan to win in this conference.”