Hawkeyes Set for Home, Big Ten Opener

March 22, 2012

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The University of Iowa softball team opens Big Ten Conference play this weekend, hosting Wisconsin for a three-game series at Pearl Field. Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 1 p.m. (CT), while Sunday’s series finale starts at 2 p.m. Fans can listen to the games online on Hawkeye All-Access.

Admission to Pearl Field is $3 for adults. There is no charge for youth (high school age and younger) or UI students with a valid student ID.

The three-game series between Iowa and Wisconsin will be streamed live online via the BTN’s “Student U.” broadcast. The streamed content is available on the All-Access page at hawkeyesports.com. Kyle Hughes and Adam Hairston will call the action this weekend at Pearl Field.

Fans can listen to every game for the remainder of the 2012 season via the All-Access page at hawkeyesports.com. Rob Brooks, the voice of Iowa softball, will call the action. Hawkeye All-Access is a subscription service that charges $9.95 per month.

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.

Hawkeye fans can follow the University of Iowa softball team on the social media platforms Twitter (@iowasoftball) and Facebook (facebook.com/iowahawkeyessoftball). Game updates will be tweeted during each game.

Iowa will host Wisconsin for a three-game series this weekend at Pearl Field for its 2012 Big Ten Conference and home opener. Free beanies will be handed out to the first 50 fans on Saturday and trading cards will be given to the first 100 fans on Sunday. Sunday will also be Iowa softball bingo for a chance to win a free pizza from Pizza Hut, and there will be a postgame Q&A/autograph session with the Hawkeyes.

Fans will also have the opportunity to pick up free Iowa softball magnets, posters and schedule cards.

Wisconsin enters Big Ten play with an 11-9 overall record after dropping 2-of-3 games last weekend at the Gaucho Classic II in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Badgers defeated UC Santa Barbara (4-0) before falling to San Jose State (9-0(5) and Oklahoma State (1-0).

Three UW players are batting above .300 on the season. Maria Van Abel is pacing the squad and leading the Big Ten with a .478 average with 22 hits in 46 at-bats. Mary Massei is hitting .362, and Whitney Massey is hitting .328. Molly Spence is the Badgers’ top run producer with 19 RBI to go along with a team-best five home runs.

Cassandra Darrah is Wisconsin’s top option in the circle, posting a 7-4 record with a 2.48 ERA. Darrah has three complete game shutouts and 40 strikeouts in 62 innings. Meghan Mcintosh and Amanda Najdek both have notched a pair of victories with a 2.66 and a 2.96 ERA, respectively.

? Iowa leads the all-time series over Wisconsin, 28-9. Last season the Badgers swept the two-game series in Iowa City, 7-6 and 4-3. Prior to 2011, the Hawkeyes had won the previous six meetings.
? Wisconsin is 5-1 in true road games this season and 6-8 at a neutral site.
? UW pitcher Cassandra Darrah is a Corydon, Iowa, native. She prepped at Wayne High School, where she was the Player of the Year as a senior by the IGCA.
? Iowa and Wisconsin have played two common opponents in Arkansas and Oklahoma State. The Badgers fell to the Razorback and Cowgirls, 4-1 and 1-0, while the Hawkeyes lost two Arkansas (8-0) and split two games with OSU (W-5-3; L-5-6).

? Iowa has won its last four Big Ten openers and 6-of-its-last-8. The Hawkeyes swept Ohio State in Columbus in 2011 and Michigan State in East Lansing in 2010.
? The Hawkeyes rank fourth in the Big Ten Conference in team pitching (2.42 ERA), third in team fielding (.959) and 10th in team batting (.250).
? Freshman Megan Blank batted .500 with seven hits in 14 at-bats during the spring break trip to California. The shortstop tallied Iowa’s first triple of the season in the 4-3 loss to No. 3 Washington.
? Blank is third in the Big Ten with a .423 batting average and her nine doubles are tied for the conference lead. The shortstop ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in six offensive categories (batting average – 3rd – .423; slugging % – 10th – .620; on-base % – 6th – .500; hits – t6th – 30; doubles – 1st – 9; total bases -t10th – 44).
? Sophomore Kayla Massey (2.39) and junior Chelsea Lyon (2.47) are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the conference in ERA.
? Freshman Melanie Gladden had a two-run double in the top of the seventh inning to lift the Hawkeyes to a 2-0 victory over Virginia. The Cavaliers were receiving votes the ESPN.com poll on March 13.
? The Hawkeyes fell to No. 13 Arizona, 6-1, in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. Iowa’s one run was the first scored against the Wildcats in seven games and ended UA pitcher Kenzie Fowler’s scoreless inning streak at 38.
? Iowa scored 26 runs in the 26-5 rout of Iowa State on Feb. 19. The Hawkeyes plated 13 runs in the top of the third inning alone. Iowa didn’t score 13 runs in a game last season.
? The Hawkeyes are 8-4 this season when scoring three or more runs and 8-5 when scoring the game’s first run.

Freshman Megan Blank is riding a 10-game hitting streak for the Hawkeyes, the longest streak by an Iowa player this season. During the stretch, the California native has four multi-hit games, and she has a .500 batting average with 14 hits in 28 at-bats.

The Hawkeyes have not shied away from playing against the nation’s elite. Iowa has played 10 games against ranked teams, including eight games against top 13 ranked foes.

Iowa is 1-9 against ranked competition with its lone victory coming against No. 23 Oklahoma State, 6-5, on March 3 in Oklahoma City. The Hawkeyes nearly defeated No. 5 Arizona State in Tempe, falling 5-2 despite taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Hawkeyes have squared off against three pitchers — Missouri’s Chelsea Thomas, Baylor’s Whitney Canion and Oklahoma’s Keilani Ricketts — that played for the USA Women’s National Team last summer.

Senior Katie Keim has a team-best 10 multi-hit games for the Hawkeyes this season. The first baseman has nine two-hit contests and one four-hit game. She went 4-for-6 with five runs and five RBI in the win over Iowa State. She also had her first career two-home run game against the Cyclones.

Keim is second on the team with a .329 batting average, while pacing the team with 18 RBI and three home runs.

Iowa had a record-setting 26-5 rout of Iowa State on Feb. 18 at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The Hawkeyes set school records for runs (26), hits (29), RBI (23), total bases (41) and single game batting average (.659). Iowa scored 13 runs in the second inning alone, which is believed to be the school record.

Senior Katie Keim set a school record with five runs scored, while senior Liz Watkins tied the single game school record with five hits.

Shortstop Megan Blank was tabbed Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Feb. 13 after posting a .583 batting average with six runs and two steals at the Getterman Classic. The California native reached base at nearly a 70 percent clip, getting on twice or more in four games. She went 3-for-3 against Arkansas, drew four walks against Wichita State and scored the game-winning run in the 1-0 win over UT-Arlington.

Freshman Megan Blank and junior Ashley Akers were selected to the Getterman Classic all-Tournament Team. Blank collected hits in 7-of-12 at-bats for a .583 average, while Akers batted .500, tallying six hits in 12 at-bats.

At the plate, junior Johnnie Dowling made the transition from a right-handed hitter to a left-handed slapper following the 2011 season to utilize her speed. The Des Moines, Iowa, native hit .216 with five home runs as a sophomore.

The 2012 season will be junior Bradi Wall’s third year playing softball. Growing up, she played baseball and parlayed that experience into two appearances for the Canada National Baseball Team. The last two years Wall played softball at Iowa Western Community College, where she earned All-America recognition after batting .458 with 32 doubles.

UI assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson was selected as the 2011 USA Softball Female Athlete of the Year. She earned the honor after helping Team USA to gold medals at the World Cup of Softball VII and the Pan American Games. May-Johnson batted a team-best .418 with team highs in home runs (six), runs (26) and RBI (36). She will play for the Red, White and Blue again in 2012.

The Hawkeyes played their first 26 games away from Iowa City before making their Pearl Field debut March 24 against Wisconsin. Iowa logged nearly 5,500 frequent flier miles (5,413) with trips to Waco, Texas, Palm Springs, Calif., Oklahoma City, Fullerton, Calif., and Columbia, Mo.

Iowa has made four Women’s College World Series appearances (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.