May 5, 2015
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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A rookie made sure University of Iowa softball Senior Day was a success May 3 at Bob Pearl Field.
Of course do-everything senior shortstop Megan Blank was her reliable self, going 1-for-2 with a run and two walks. But this particular afternoon belonged to freshman Allie Wood. Wood homered in her first two at-bats — hitting a grand slam in the first inning and a two-run shot in the third — to lead the Hawkeyes in an 8-6 win over Northwestern.
“I wanted Megan to leave with a bang, I didn’t want her to lose her last home game,” Wood said. “I respect and look up to Megan, so the fact I could help her clinch that win was special.”
Blank is an All-Big Ten and All-America performer who is batting .435 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs. Blank and Wood are two of six native Californians on the Hawkeye roster. Wood is from Cypress, 45 minutes from where Blank lives in Culver City.
Wood entered Sunday’s game with momentum after going 2-for-3 with two RBIs the day before. In the previous five games, she was 0-for-11.
“I had been hitting the ball and nothing was dropping,” Wood said. “Saturday I had some hits, so that was good to see and it rolled into the next day. My confidence shot back up from not hitting so well the weekend before.”
“I had been hitting the ball and nothing was dropping. Saturday I had some hits, so that was good to see and it rolled into the next day. My confidence shot back up from not hitting so well the weekend before.”
UI freshman OF
A sure way to get a hit is by depositing the ball beyond the outfield fence. That is what Wood did twice off Wildcat pitcher Kristen Wood.
“I focused on zoning in on a pitch I could hit for power,” Wood said. “I was looking more for a ball I could drive to the gaps and I got a hold of that one. I was focusing on getting runs in for the team to give us cushion since they scored in the first inning.”
Iowa’s 1-0 deficit quickly turned into a three-run lead. The Wildcats scored again in the top of the third and again Wood responded. After Kaitlyn Mullarkey opened the bottom of the third with a walk, Wood hit a 3-2 pitch out of the park. That made her 2-for-2 with six RBIs, and the Hawkeyes led, 7-2.
“My second at-bat I was more protecting, trying to get on, square the ball up,” Wood said. “That one I knew coming off the bat it was gone.”
The regular season-ending victory leaves the Hawkeyes (17-39 overall, 8-15 Big Ten Conference) with the No. 10 seed heading into the league tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Iowa opens the single-elimination competition against Rutgers (29-19, 11-12), the No. 7 seed, on Thursday at 7 p.m. (CT). The teams did not meet in the regular season.
“I’m excited. We haven’t seen Rutgers and if we roll it into our game, we should be good,” Wood said. “We don’t want Megan to go out on a bad note, that was apparent in our game Sunday. We don’t want to disappoint someone who means so much to us. That’s the main thing pushing all of us to get the job done.”
In 53 games this season (48 starts), Wood is batting .220 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs. She has 10 walks and six doubles.
“The pitching is a lot different (in college),” Wood said. “There is a lot more movement and there is a tighter strike zone, so zoning in on pitches that are actually going to be called strikes instead of swinging at balls was something I struggled with.”
Wood didn’t struggle Sunday, she flourished.