Iowa Takes on Mississippi State in Weekend Series

Feb. 20, 2014


UI softball continues the 2014 season with a three-game series at Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Feb. 21-23. The Hawkeyes play the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. (CT) on Friday and Saturday, and conclude the series with a 10 a.m. (CT) contest on Sunday.

UI softball fans can follow along with each game through live stats (Gametracker). The “GT” link can be accessed under the “Calendar” tab on the front page of or on the softball schedule page. For in-game updates and game delay information, follow @IowaSoftball on Twitter and “like” our official page on Facebook, A video stream and live audio are also available at for a fee.

? Iowa leads Mississippi State, 2-1, in the all-time series. This is Iowa’s first time playing the Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss.
? The Bulldogs won the last meeting between the teams 2-1 in eight innings on May 20, 2004 in NCAA Regional action.
? Iowa won the first two meetings, topping the Bulldogs 6-1 on April 3, 1982 and 4-2 on March 5, 1998.

Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State enters the weekend series undefeated, 11-0. The roster is comprised of seven freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and seven seniors. The team is led by third-year head coach Vann Stuedeman and assistants Tyler Bratton and Beth Mullins. Five Bulldogs are hitting at a clip above .300 — Loryn Nichols (.409), Caroline Seitz (.375), Julia Echols (.364), Heidi Shape (.357) and Sam Lenahan (.323). The battery boasts four pitchers with ERAs below 1.00 — Mackenzie Toler (0.00), Alexis Silkwood (0.38), Jacey Punches (0.38) and Alison Owen (0.68).

Hawkeye infielder Claire Fritsch was named to the Getterman Classic all-tournament team after leading all hitters with a .538 batting average (7-of-13). Of her seven total hits, two were doubles — the first of her Iowa career. She also added an RBI, stolen base, sacrifice bunt and a run scored. The freshman grew up in Round Rock, Texas, just an hour and a half from Waco, and her parents were in the stands to see her excel on the field in an Iowa uniform.

Iowa catcher Holly Hoffman leads the Big Ten in runners caught stealing after two weeks of play. The redshirt sophomore has thrown out 6-of-9 runners attempting to steal a bag on her watch, giving her a 66.7 percent success rate. The second-highest caught stealing total is three, held by eight others.

The Hawkeyes posted a season-high 16 hits and nine runs in the Getterman Classic finale against instate foe Drake. Every Hawkeye starter in the hitting lineup recorded a hit, while six — Erin Erickson, Michelle Zoeller, Alyssa Navarro, Kayla Massey, Sammi Gyerman and Claire Fritsch — turned in a multiple-hit performance. Zoeller led the team with two RBIs, while Megan Blank, Whitney Repole, Massey, Michaela Johnson, Gyerman and Fritsch contributed one RBI apiece.

UI softball has had stellar Sundays, offensively, so far in 2014. The Hawkeyes boast a .431 batting average, a .569 slugging percentage, and a .456 on-base percentage, and have scored 15 of their 28 total runs and recorded 28 of their 69 total hits in Sunday competition. Eight Iowa starters are hitting over .300 on Sundays, including: Sammi Gyerman (.833), Claire Fritsch (.600), Erin Erickson (.571), Holly Hoffman (.500), Alyssa Navarro (.429), Megan Blank (.429), Kayla Massey (.375) and Michelle Zoeller (.375).

Each Hawkeye starting pitcher has tallied a win in the 2014 season. Redshirt freshman Shayla Starkenburg notched her first career win in the season-opener against UNC Greensboro on Feb. 7. She gave up one hit in the 5-0 shutout and held the Spartans hitless until the sixth. Sophomore Micaela Whitney picked up her first win on Feb. 8 against Presbyterian, 6-3. She struck out four in her 6.2 innings of work. Senior Kayla Massey earned her first win against Drake, 9-0, on Feb. 16. She struck out three and held the Bulldogs to five hits in six innings.

? Erin Erickson is seventh in total bases (19) and ninth in slugging percentage (.679).
? Sammi Gyerman is second in triples (2).
? Claire Fritsch is third in assists (26), fourth in fielding double plays (3), seventh in steal attempts (4) and ninth in stolen bases (3).
? Michelle Zoeller is sixth in at bats (31).
? Kayla Massey is second in caught stealing (3), third in games started (5), seventh in innings pitched (29.1), ninth in earned run average (2.39) and 11th in opposing batting average (.232).
? Shayla Starkenburg leads the conference in saves (1), doubles allowed (0) and triples allowed (0), is second in hits allowed (7), third in opposing batting average (.152) and games finished (3) and sixth in home runs allowed (1).
? Micaela Whitney is sixth in earned runs allowed (6), ninth in hits allowed (17) and 10th in earned run average (2.42) and runs allowed (10).
? Alyssa Navarro is third in chances (85) and putouts (79), and fourth in fielding double plays (3).
? Holly Hoffman leads the conference in caught stealing (6), and ranks second in steal attempts against (9).
? Megan Blank is eighth in assists (20).

Fourth-year head coach Marla Looper has a career coaching record of 87-80 (.520). She is just 13 wins from achieving her 100th win as a head coach. Looper recorded 27 wins in 2011, 27 wins in 2012, and added 30 wins in 2013. Her 30 wins last season was the highest win total since 2009 when the Hawkeyes posted a 42-19 mark.

College Sports Madness recognized Iowa softball on several occasions in the preseason. The Hawkeyes were named the No. 40 team in the country by the site on Jan. 9. College Sports Madness also recognized shortstop Megan Blank as a preseason first team All-Big Ten and preseason second team All-American in February.

Redshirt freshman Shayla Starkenburg made a successful Hawkeye debut at last weekend’s Carolina Classic. The right-handed pitcher collected the first start, win, shutout, and one-hitter of her Hawkeye career in Iowa’s first game of 2014 against UNC Greensboro on Feb. 7. Her no-hit bid held until midway through the sixth, when UNCG recorded a single. She recorded five strikeouts in her seven innings pitched. Starkenburg made her second appearance of the season in relief against Presbyterian. She entered the contest in a bases loaded situation with two outs and an Iowa lead to protect. With the game on the line, Starkenburg ended the threat, forcing a ground out to end the game in Iowa’s favor 6-3 and record her first career save. Starkenburg made her third and final appearance against Ohio in relief. She held the Bobcats hitless and scoreless. On the weekend, Starkenburg posted 1-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and five strikeouts. She gave up just one hit, holding her opponents to a .043 batting average.

The 2014 UI schedule is full of quality opponents. The Hawkeyes will face No. 11/12 Nebraska three times, No. 25 Texas three times, No. 16/18 Missouri three times, No. 20/21 Minnesota twice, and No. 15 Baylor and No. 14 Arizona once. The Hawkeyes will also take on Mississippi State and Northwestern three times and Lipscomb, and UAB once — all of whom are receiving votes in at least one of the polls (USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll or the Softball Poll). In 2013, the Hawkeyes topped six ranked foes, including: No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette (13-10), No. 15 Stanford (7-6), No. 24 Oregon State (9-3), No. 11 Louisville (6-2), No. 21 Kentucky (3-1), and No. 19 Nebraska (6-2).

This year’s Hawkeye roster is comprised of seniors Brianna Luna, Kayla Massey and Michelle Zoeller; junior Megan Blank; sophomores Erin Erickson, Micaela Whitney, Whitney Repole, Sammi Gyerman, Haley Hansel, and Holly Hoffman, and freshmen Alyssa Navarro, Claire Fritsch, Kaitlyn Mullarkey, Kara Misel, Shayla Starkenburg, and Michaela Johnson. Iowa is led by fourth-year head coach Marla Looper, assistants Adrianna Baggetta and Stacy May-Johnson, and volunteer assistant Chelsey Carmody.

Hawkeye junior Megan Blank appeared on the Top 50 Watch List for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year released on Jan. 29, 2014. The shortstop — making the list for the first time in her career — is 1-of-7 student-athletes from the Big Ten and 1-of-20 juniors included in the Top 50. The list is narrowed to the top 25 on April 9, the top 10 on May 7, and the top 3 on May 21. The 2014 Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be announced prior to the start of the Women’s College World Series on May 27. The award, given by the National Governing Body for softball in the United States, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.

Megan Blank hit .437 in 2013, setting Iowa’s single season batting average record. The previous record was .428, set by Kim Davis in 1993. Her career average is .413, also marking the highest in program history. Blank’s 59 RBIs in 2013 mark the second-highest single-season total in program history. Debbie Bilbao posted a school record 61 RBIs in 1997. Blank also belted 11 home runs in 2013 — the third-highest single-season total.

Shortstop Megan Blank was invited to the 2013 USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Camp, held in Oklahoma City on June 10-12 at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex following her sophomore season. Blank was one of 32 athletes, and one of six sophomores, invited.

Shortstop Megan Blank was named a 2013 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) First Team All-Midwest Region selection, earning her second all-region honor in as many seasons. Blank is the sixth Hawkeye in program history to garner all-region honors in each of her first two seasons. She became the ninth player in program history to earn all-region recognition as a freshman, as she was named to the second team.

The Big Ten Tournament returned in 2013 for the first time since 2008. The Hawkeyes have claimed two Big Ten Tournament titles (2001, 2003) and won 21 games in the event all-time — the second most of any team. The conference tournament was discontinued from 2009-12. Iowa fell to Ohio State, 8-4, in the first round at Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. The Hawkeyes held a 4-1 advantage moving to the bottom of the fifth before the Buckeyes plated six runs to rally for the victory.

Iowa has made four Women’s College World Series appearances (1995, 1996, 1997, 2001) and played in 16 NCAA Tournaments in school history. The 16 appearances are the second most in Big Ten history, and the four WCWS appearances equal the second most in conference history. The Hawkeyes have won four Big Ten Conference regular season championships (1989, 1997, 2000, 2003) and two Big Ten Tournament titles (2001, 2003).

Iowa continues its season on the road at the University of Arizona Tournament, Feb. 28-March 2. The Hawkeyes take on Valparaiso on Friday, Arizona and UT Arlington on Saturday, and Longwood on Sunday.