Feb. 24, 2012
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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 — University of Iowa head softball coach Marla Looper knew freshman Megan Blank had the ability to come in and be productive for the Hawkeyes, but not to this extent.
Through the first 10 games of her collegiate career, the Culver City, Calif., native is leading the team — and is tied for the Big Ten Conference lead — with a .556 batting average. She has 15 hits in 27 at-bats, while scoring a team-high 12 runs. Her five doubles are the most in the league.
“There was some anticipation that she has the ability to do what she does, but as a newcomer comes in, changing levels, elevating it, sometimes it doesn’t come that quickly,” said Looper. “It’s a pleasant surprise that she’s had this kind of success early.”
Blank got off to a quick start in her first collegiate tournament, finishing with a .583 batting average at the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas. She scored six runs, had two steals, and reached base at nearly a 70-percent clip.
Blank tied a school record with four walks in the season-opening win over Wichita State before going 3-for-3 against Arkansas. She was selected to the all-tournament team and was tabbed as the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Feb. 13.
The shortstop continued where she left off at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz., posting a .533 batting average with five extra-base hits, including the first home run of her softball career (all age levels) in the 7-5 victory over Central Michigan.
“I thought it would maybe one-hop the fence or something,” said Blank of her first long ball. “I was rounding first pretty hard and then all of a sudden I hear everyone cheering in the dugout, and I got a little bit excited. I couldn’t believe it… it was pretty cool.”
Blank’s early-season power surge is impressive considering she didn’t switch to the left side of the plate until her sophomore year in travel ball. Even then, she was primarily a slapper.
“In travel ball, I strictly slapped with the short game,” said Blank. “I didn’t really hit for power because I wasn’t confident in my swing. I didn’t have too much direct training hitting lefty.”
Add Looper and UI assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson to the equation, and that quickly changed.
“When we looked at her swing, we asked, ‘why doesn’t she swing away?’ said Looper. “She’s been working on that quite a bit. She’s already a tough force, but when she can get every phase of the left-handed swing down — when she can drop a bunt, slap or hit away — she’ll be harder to deal with because it will be unexpected. It’s kind of nice to have someone like that.”
In the midst of her strong start, Looper is letting the game come to her first-year starter.
“When you’re hot, you’re hot,” said Looper. “It’s nice for her to be able to do that (swing away). As she develops and grows, she’ll turn into the kind of lefty that can truly read the defense and put the bat on the ball how she wants it, whenever she wants.”
The Hawkeyes return to action today at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. Iowa faces Fresno State and Oregon State at 2:30 and 5 p.m. (CT) at the Big League Dreams Sports Park.