An Unlikely Power Source

May 2, 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 — There are telltale signs of power hitters. Batting in the middle of the order, hitting home runs and getting pitched around with intentional walks. Iowa’s Katie Keim fits the above criteria for the Iowa softball team, but she’s one of the unlikeliest of big boppers for the Hawkeyes.

Keim, the team’s leadoff hitter for a majority of the year, has been Iowa’s top hitter over the course of the last month, hitting nearly .400 over the last 12 games. The second baseman batted nearly .500 during a 10-game hitting streak that stretched from April 10 through April 30.

During the streak, Keim lifted her batting average over 50 points, raising a .241 mark to a season-best .292 average on April 30. Keim attributes the surge to her demeanor in the batter’s box.

“I am not thinking as much at the plate,” said Keim, who has a season average of .283. “Before I think I overthought what pitch I was going to get next or went up pressing, needing to get a hit. Now I am reacting… seeing the ball, hitting the ball. It’s as simple as that.”

With her confidence at an all-time high, Keim accomplished something that a Hawkeye hadn’t done since the 2005 season. She hit home runs in three consecutive games, marking the most games with consecutive long balls since Emily Nichols had jacks in four straight contests during the 2005 season.

Keim’s first home run of the season — and just the second of her career and the first since her freshman campaign — came in the series finale at No. 1 Michigan. The third inning, two-run long ball gave Iowa the 2-0 lead in what eventually was a tough 3-2 loss to the nation’s then top-ranked team.

In the following inning, Keim got the ultimate sign of respect when she was pitched around with an intentional walk in her fourth inning at-bat with two outs and a runner on third. It was a first for the junior in her entire softball career.

“I was running down to first base with a grin on my face,” said Keim of the intentional walk. “I told Coach B (Adrianna Baggetta) that I had never been intentionally walked before.”

Iowa’s next opponent didn’t get the memo, as Keim’s hot streak continued at Pearl Field when she belted home runs in consecutive games against Wisconsin. She hit a solo shot in the first game before connecting on a three-run long ball in the night cap of the doubleheader, while hitting in the three spot.

“It as an exciting stretch for me,” said Keim. “My teammates have been joking with me about it because I am not usually a power hitter. I have been going up to the plate just trying to make contact and get a hit, and I got just enough of the ball each time to lift it over the fence.”

Seeing is believing, and Keim has been believing more in herself. She looks to build on her play to help the Hawkeyes close out the last four games of the regular season on a high note.

“I am going to try and keep doing what I’m doing and not get down on myself,” said Keim. “I’ll continue to go up to the plate with the see the ball, hit the ball mentality.”

The Hawkeyes are winding down play in the regular season with four home games remaining in the 2011 campaign. Iowa hosts Illinois for a doubleheader Wednesday before facing Penn State at Pearl Field May 7-8.