Jan. 17, 2016
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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 BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — With eight position players returning this spring, the University of Iowa softball team is focused on becoming one of the top-ranked defensive teams in the country.
“We are further along now than we have been in the past because of our experience,” said UI assistant coach Adrianna Baggetta. “It makes the transition for our newcomers easier, because we have so many athletes that understand the defensive schemes and what my expectations are.”
Baggetta, who handles the Iowa defense, led the Hawkeyes to a record-breaking year in 2015. The Hawkeyes shattered the program record for double plays in a season, turning 35 doubles plays in 59 games and besting the previous record of 26 (2003, 2012) by nine. Iowa’s 35 double plays led the Big Ten and ranked fourth nationally.
The Hawkeye defense proved to be a difference maker in Iowa’s Big Ten Tournament run last season. Iowa used double plays in the sixth and seventh innings to complete the upset of No. 12 Minnesota and advance to the semifinals — the program’s deepest run in the tournament since 2008. “The key to turning-two is being fundamentally sound and making sure we are doing the little things right all the time,” said Baggetta. “Once we do that, it provides us with that defensive presence. “Our goal this year remains consistent with what it has been. We are looking to be one of the top defensive teams in the conference, and we would like to make a move even higher nationally.”
While four-time NFCA All-Midwest Region and All-Big Ten honoree Megan Blank will be missed at shortstop, the Hawkeyes return all of their remaining starters. Redshirt junior Sammi Gyerman returns to the outfield after starting every game in center field in 2015.
Senior Erin Erickson (outfield), junior Claire Fritsch (second base), and sophomores Cheyenne Pratt (outfield), Allie Wood (outfield), and Sarah Kurtz (third base) each started 50 or more games last season, while redshirt senior catcher Holly Hoffman (46 starts) and junior first basemen Kaitlyn Mullarkey (37 starts) each saw significant time in the starting lineup.
In-game experience is beneficial, but several newcomers are also vying for starts. The Hawkeyes added five newcomers to their roster in freshmen Malloy Kilian (pitcher/utility), Erin Riding (pitcher), and Brooke Rozier (catcher/utility), and transfers Katy Taylor (sophomore infielder) and Elizabeth Wiegand (junior pitcher). Sophomores Daniella Ibarra and Ashley Yoways may also see an increased role on the infield this spring.
“Experience is always a great thing, but we have a lot of young kids that are competing for starting spots, too,” said Baggetta. “When it comes down to it, there are going to be quite a few spots that are hard to pick every game.”
While it’s only one week into the 2016 season, Baggetta already likes what she sees.
“We have been pretty consistent, and they are getting after it,” Baggetta said. “I’m excited to see who is going to step up now. I think we are going to be a very solid defensive team, and it will be exciting to watch.”
The Hawkeyes begin the 2016 season at the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tournament in Corpus Christi, Texas from Feb. 12-14.