A Strong 1-2 Punch

Feb. 16, 2013

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 — The University of Iowa softball program is poised to take the next step in 2013.

Last season, head coach Marla Looper led the Hawkeyes to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten — the program’s highest finish since winning the league title in 2003.

This year, the goal is simple: win the Big Ten title. If Iowa accomplishes its goal, the rest (an NCAA appearance) will take care of itself.

Iowa’s goal will rely heavily on the arms of two players who have combined to win 65 career games — senior Chelsea Lyon and junior Kayla Massey. The duo hurled 354.2 innings pitched out of 355.0 total innings for the team in 2012.

“I am very excited about our staff,” said Looper. “We have added some depth, but it is nice having two veterans back. They have both been with us for at least two years. They have grown exponentially through the years.”

Massey was named first team All-Big Ten in 2012, posting a 15-11 record with a 2.04 ERA. The Foothill Ranch, Calif., native notched seven shutouts and 24 complete games in 26 starts. She tallied 120 strikeouts over 185.2 innings and limited opposing hitters to a .222 batting average. Massey went 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA in Big Ten play.

“I am very excited about our staff. We have added some depth, but it is nice having two veterans back. They have both been with us for at least two years. They have grown exponentially through the years.”
— UI Head Coach Marla Looper

She has made 50 career starts as a Hawkeye in 68 appearances, registering 40 complete games and 27 victories.

“Kayla has reinvented herself,” said Looper. “She is throwing some different pitches; teams will not know who she is. They will not know what is coming at them. It is nice to change your repertoire up a little bit.”

Lyon has made 97 career appearances inside the circle, with 72 starts. She has tossed 43 complete games and holds a career 2.95 ERA in 465 innings pitched. In 2012, Lyon ranked eighth in the Big Ten in ERA (2.61) and opposing batting average (.238), and 11th in innings (169.0) and strikeouts (114).

Lyon ranks 10th in school history with 294 career strikeouts.

“Chelsea has definitely added more movement,” said Looper. “They are both smarter on the mound. They both know they are groundball pitchers. We are not going to strike a lot of people out, if we do get strikeouts, that is golden.

“We trust our defense behind us. There is a common trust between the defense and the pitching, and vice versa. When you have that going, and you know your offense is going to score some runs, it makes it a lot easier.”

The Hawkeyes finished second in the Big Ten in pitching (2.31 ERA) in 2012. Iowa’s 1-2 punch, along with junior Brittanee Grove, and freshmen Micaela Whitney and Shayla Starkenburg, are set for another strong season inside the circle.

“Our pitching staff is solid, and I look for them to have another good year,” said Looper.

Massey and Lyon combined to allow zero earned runs in 15 innings during Iowa’s victories over Dayton and Oklahoma State on the opening day of the Lovelace Invitational.

Iowa (5-2) continues play in the tournament today, facing Nebraska-Omaha (2 p.m.) and host North Texas (4:30 p.m.) before concluding play against Oklahoma State on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. All times are Central and all five games will be held at North Texas’ Lovelace Stadium.