Welcome to The Dugout! This blog will provide fans the opportunity to connect with the student-athletes, coaches, staff and alumni around the Hawkeye softball program. The Dugout aims to deliver a unique insight into the lives of the Iowa softball team. Each week, The Dugout will feature different softball student-athletes, a coach or an alum.
The Dugout: A Farewell from Shayla Starkenburg
Hey Hawk Fans,
I feel honored to have had this opportunity to play for a Big Ten school and represent my home state. Growing up, I always had big dreams of playing D1 softball, preferably somewhere warm so I could play outside all year around since growing up in Iowa didn’t allow for that. However, as I got to be a junior in high school, my priorities changed. I wanted to stay close to home and when I was offered the chance to be a Hawkeye, I was ecstatic! On my official visit, I was in awe of the facilities, sold on the team charisma and the coaching staff’s friendliness, and overwhelmed by the amount of great food I could indulge in!
I would like to take it back to when my passion for softball arose. Around third grade, my parents decided it was time for me to get involved in sports to get me out of the house and encourage me to be active. My mom picked basketball, an easy choice for her since she played college basketball, and my dad picked softball, a sport which he didn’t really have much knowledge about other than his high school baseball experience. It was always a toss-up as to which sport I liked better. It usually depended on what season it was. However, little did my dad know, the sport he chose would have a major impact on my life.
I was the typical child who loved games and had a strong dislike for practice. This led to my dad having to drag me to the field to practice and every once in a while, walking myself home after because my dad’s standards were higher than my performance was that day. As the years went on, I like to believe I was more willing to practice and put in the extra work that pitching required. However, I wish I could go back in time, because I now see how much passion my dad had for me to be successful. He spent countless hours on his own watching videos on pitching techniques and teaching himself the proper mechanics. He would purchase all the latest pitching tools, even making his own when possible. He was so selfless in his willingness to make me better. Since I cannot go back, I just want to give my dad the biggest, most sincere “thank you” from the bottom of my heart for being persistent and pushing me because without that, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. More importantly, I want to thank him for being my biggest fan throughout my entire softball journey, alongside of my mom.
I think my mom had the toughest job of being there for me emotionally throughout my softball journey. She has always been the first to pick me up after a bad game, and she’s always been there to push me and encourage me to be a better athlete and person. I can’t thank her enough for all the undercover work she has done to help me get to where I am today.
Throughout my college career, I have been overwhelmed by the support of my parents. From my redshirt year to my senior year, my parents have been to a large majority of my collegiate games, only missing a handful each year. For my own interest, I counted up the number of states my parents have traveled to watch me play and I was shocked to realize they have followed me to 17 states. Their dedication to being there for me definitely has not gone unnoticed. There aren’t enough thank you’s that could ever equate to the countless hours of driving or flying and the thousands of dollars they have spent watching me play.
To me, the University of Iowa will always be more than the school I competed at. It will be the school that opened the doors for my future and where I earned a valuable business degree. The college of business has proved to be challenging and yet very rewarding for me. I feel prepared for my future endeavors and I know that my education will allow me to thrive in my future career. I owe a big “thank you” to the dedicated professors who have helped me along the way.
I am leaving this program a stronger, more independent woman than when I arrived. There were days when I didn’t think I was going to survive a practice or a workout, fatigued to what I felt was my max. These were the days that proved to me that I am capable of pushing through adversity and the importance of being resilient.
Thank you to the coaching staff for investing time and effort into developing me as an athlete and as a person. Thank you to our fans, who have shown unwavering support through our great days and through our struggles. Thank you to the donors that made my journey possible. Thank you to my fiancé for always being there for me. Thank you to Hawkeye Nation for making this school so special. Thank you to the game that has shaped me.
Shayla Starkenburg #24
The Dugout: A Farewell from Kaitlyn Mullarkey
To the game I fell in love with,
If you had asked me during my senior year of high school if I would ever be a Division I college softball player, I would have thought you were crazy. My journey to Iowa wasn’t as conventional as most of my teammates. Originally, I went to Illinois Wesleyan University to play basketball, but after being there for a short stint, I realized Iowa was the school for me and I transferred the next year. Taking a chance on one of my dreams, I tried out for the University of Iowa’s softball team.
Here I am today, down to my last few weeks in a Hawkeye uniform, reminiscing on the first time I stepped foot on Pearl Field. Little did I know that would be the day my amazing nickname was born and my dream of being a Division I softball player would come true. As my career comes to a close I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way.
To all my coaches throughout my life, I thank you for always pushing me to my fullest potential and for always believing in me, even when I was the shortest and scrawniest kid on the team at some points in my life. Thank you Mr. Vogg and Mr. Inman for hammering the fundamentals of the game into me all my childhood. I owe you both for learning the ins and outs of the game and for fueling my passion for the sport. Thank you Coach Pasier for your unwavering support on the court, on the field and in life in general. Having a coach tell you they’re proud of you is something an athlete can never forget. Anyone who has the privilege to play in the Maine South High School softball program gets a special opportunity to learn the game from a great coach and great role model.
Thank you to my family for helping me fulfill my dreams and for being there for me every step of the way. Thank you to my siblings, Anthony and Nicole, for always giving me someone to practice with and for making me better. Even though you guys couldn’t make a lot of games, your good luck texts and watching on BTN means more than you guys know. Thank you Mom and Dad for spending endless amounts of time at ballparks all over the country watching me play. Thank you for doing everything I needed to become the athlete and person I am today. Thank you Dad for being my very first coach and number one fan my whole life.
To all my Hawkeye teammates, I am never going to forget the memories we have made throughout these past four years. The bonds we’ve built can never be replaced. It is hard to accept that I am down to my last few weeks going to battle with my Hawks, and I am cherishing every last moment I have with some of the best teammates and friends I’ve ever had.
Thank you to the Hawkeye coaching staff for taking a chance on a walk on and giving me the incredible opportunity to play in a Hawkeye uniform. Thank you for helping me fulfill my dreams and giving me the opportunity to play the game I fell in love with as a little girl. I will always take pride in being a Hawkeye and will never stop saying GO HAWKS!
– CHIP #14 (Kaitlyn Mullarkey)
The Dugout: A Farewell from Claire Fritsch
Dear Hawkeye Fans,
Trying to fit 19 years of softball into a couple paragraphs seems nearly impossible. When I think back on my softball career, I don’t focus on specific moments, but on the people who helped me get here and the relationships I have built along the way.
Growing up following my brother play baseball weekend after weekend, year round, for the majority of my life gave me the exposure I needed to learn the game. It also gave me insight on how to progress as an athlete by watching him move through the different stages and transition from high school into college and then the minors. It’s safe to say Craig was my role model. I still remember trying to mimic his mechanics on the field when I first started as a toddler, and as I progressed in softball, he did the same in baseball. As we both grew older, our schedules overlapped and it made each game with the other in the stands much more meaningful. The games at the Cal State Fullerton tournament this past season were the last games that Craig will watch me play in person. This was the moment of realization that my career as a softball player would be coming to an end.
Although Craig’s experiences taught me the ins and outs of the game, it was my dad who spent the countless hours on the side of the house playing catch, pitching front toss, and taking me to lessons and practices. He instilled in me that working hard only gets you so far, unless you have the God-given ability to go with it. This is something I revert back to every moment I step onto the field. I can always find comfort in the fact that all of the preparation I have put into this game has enhanced my ability as an athlete, and I try to remember to always allow my natural instincts to take over. We have spent numerous hours bonding over this game and he has always been my biggest fan and my favorite critic. To this day I still receive a pat on the back when deserved, and advice when needed. As I’ve grown older, this has translated into every aspect of my life.
This game has provided me with numerous life lessons, many of which I have learned during my time here at Iowa. But, beyond these, softball has provided me the opportunity to travel the country, make lifelong friends, learn to adapt and handle adversity, and become a Hawkeye.
My path to join this program wouldn’t have been possible without the hours spent working with Coach V (Steve Vierra). He taught me the adjustments and techniques I needed to compete at this level, and he has continued to work with me over the past couple years. I am more than thankful for all of the time he has sacrificed to help me be better as an athlete, and for the time that he has spent in the stands attending my games as a Hawkeye.
Committing to play softball at The University of Iowa was a no brainer. When I first stepped foot on this campus on my unofficial visit, I knew this was the place I was meant to be. The University of Iowa checked all of my boxes, but what sealed the deal was the fan base. I wanted to play at a school that had fans regardless of the opponent or the weather, and we have that here. Playing for the Iowa Softball Team has been an amazing experience. I have built long-lasting friendships and memories that will connect us as teammates for a lifetime. The wins and losses don’t define who we are outside of the softball field, but they have prepared us to perform in all aspects of life.
Mom and dad, you deserve the biggest thank you. I am beyond words for the amount of work and time you have both put in to make sure I succeed in softball and in life. Whether you are watching my games from the stands, on television, or from Twitter updates, I never take your support for granted. Knowing you are following along or sitting in the stands is recognition that we all excelled. You both did your part to give me the ability to fulfill my dreams, and me standing on that field is the acknowledgement that we did it. Dad, you worked with me on the softball aspects, and occasionally Mom stepped in. But Mom, you did all of the behind-the-scenes work. From the number of reservations you have made over the years to the long road trips, knowing my gestures for when I wanted a Gatorade or a snack from the dugout, washing my white pants until they were spotless, and everything between, thank you. Thank you both for making this all possible.
Thank you to the Coaches here at Iowa for the opportunity to continue playing this game, and to everyone who has played a part in my softball career. I am grateful to have played for and to graduate from The University of Iowa, and I will always take pride in being a Hawkeye.
The Dugout: A Farewell from Elizabeth Wiegand
I have spent almost every day of my life with softball. Since the second grade, I’ve spent so much time trying to perfect everything the game has taught me. Softball has taught me that putting time and effort into something helps it grow and become better and stronger, whether it is friendships or change ups.
Over the years I have been part of many different teams, and I have experienced winning and losing seasons. But my experience with the sport goes beyond winning and losing. I can only remember a handful of games and their outcomes, but the people and places that have crossed my path because of the sport are what I will never forget. The memories, the relationships, and the lessons I have attained through my career are worth more than any trophy could be ever worth. Softball allowed me to be part of something greater than myself.
To my family: Thank you for your endless support. From giving me perspective when I’m low to celebrating the highs with me, the amount of selfless love I receive on a daily basis from you all is something I can never thank you enough for.
To my teammates: Thank you for making softball fun. Working hard is easy when you are doing it alongside your best friends. Thank you for picking me up when I make a mistake, and pushing me to compete every day. Even though my journey with softball is almost over, our journey as friends is just starting, and I can’t wait to take on the rest of life with you.
To my dad: Thank you for being the best coach a girl could ask for. I am grateful for the countless hours you relinquished, sitting in a squat, even if it was only to perfect one pitch. You are, and will always be, my favorite catcher. Your commitment to my progress, as a pitcher and as a young woman, has motivated me to be a better version of myself every day. You taught me how to value hard work over natural talent. Because of you, I push myself to be present in every pitch, whether it be at practice or in a game. You are the smartest man I know, and I strive to be more like you every day.
Although my softball career is coming to an end, my love for the game, my teammates, my coaches past and present, and my University will never stop. To everyone who has been part of my life as a softball player, thank you.
Forever a Hawkeye,
The Dugout: Giving Back to Our Community (Part 2)
Hey Hawk fans! We are so excited to be able to raise awareness for the various organizations we work with in our Iowa City community through our Awareness Game on April 15th. It is such a privilege to be able to connect to our community in such a positive way. In addition to the three organizations we highlighted in the previous edition of The Dugout, we also work with the REACH program and Grantwood Area Education Agency at Solon high school.
Solon High School
Hey Hawks! Brooke here. Mal and I wanted to give you a little insight on the organization we work with throughout the year! We are so lucky to work with Solon High School and to get to spend time with the kids in the special needs class! We were introduced to this organization last year by one of our seniors (who has since graduated), Sammie Gyerman. During her years of volunteering, she was able to build relationships and bonds with awesome kids, and she left a huge impression on the class! We were able to join that great group of people as freshmen, and we are excited for our own bonds to continue to grow with these kids throughout the next few years. Our typical day hanging out at Solon usually involves tricky puzzles, going to P.E. class, and playing some type of game. It is a nice couple of hours to put everything else aside and just enjoy some time with kids who never fail to make you smile.
Five Hawks are honored to volunteer with the University of Iowa’s Reach Program! We have developed a great relationship with the program and continue to build lasting relationships with the Reach students. We try to create unique events for them to partake in with the softball team and we accompany the student at various Reach sponsored events. We love to attend Reach’s dodgeball nights at the Field House on Thursday nights and help with arts and crafts night on Tuesday nights. Also, every fall we have our annual kickball game at Pearl Field where the Reach students bus over to Pearl for a huge kickball event! Over the past two years we have been accompanied by the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams as well.
It has been great to see our relationship with the Reach program grow and we look forward to continuing the partnership!
We are so grateful to be able to work with such a great group of organizations. Go Hawks!
– The sophomore (Erin Riding, Mallory Kilian, and Brooke Rozier) and junior (Sarah Kurtz, Katy Taylor, Angela Schmiederer, Allie Wood, Daniella Ibarra, Cheyenne Pratt, Ashley Yoways, and Daniela Chambers) classes
The Dugout: Giving Back to Our Community (Part 1)
At the beginning of each academic year, we receive a sheet of paper that lists the standards of our team. One of those standards is that we will be involved in the community and will volunteer at an organization of our choosing. This is one of the primary standards we have as a team, and we take great pride in it. We receive an unlimited amount of support from the Hawkeye community, so we take it upon ourselves to give back by devoting hours out of our day to volunteering.
Five members of the team volunteer with the local animal shelter. At the animal shelter, we work with cats and dogs primarily, either playing with them, reinforcing good behavior by giving them a treat, or getting them used to human interaction before they find a new family. We also help the shelter with routine chores. Many of these tasks involve washing dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning up the shelter in general. Volunteering at the animal shelter gives all five of us a great feeling inside, because we are able to help transition animals from shelter life to a new and better one with a loving family.
The second organization many team members volunteer with is the Hope Lodge. At the Hope Lodge, we get to know the residents, fold laundry, clean rooms for incoming residents, and participate in activities such as Bingo. Volunteering at the Hope Lodge, gives us the satisfaction of meeting new people who reside there. Meeting new people is great! We really enjoy hearing about their lives, because someone who was once a stranger suddenly becomes part of our community. Being involved in the community helps everyone feel like they are part of something greater, especially when we may be away from our friends and family.
Freshman Alex Rath volunteers at the Veteran’s Hospital. At the Veteran’s Hospital she is an escort who takes patients to their appointment or wherever they need to go throughout the hospital. In addition, she takes specimens to the laboratory and delivers mail. While volunteering there, she has had the opportunity to make new friends from the great men and women who have served our country. Throughout these new friendships, she has learned many things from the stories and jokes told.
We love our community and are honored to give back to it. Go Hawks!
– The freshman (Lea Thompson, Allison Doocy, Taylor Libby, Devin Cantu, Taylor MaKowsky, Havyn Monteer, Alex Rath, McKenzie Schneider) and senior (Shayla Starkenburg, Elizabeth Wiegand, Claire Fritsch, Kaitlyn Mullarkey) classes
The Dugout: This is How We Manage
It’s game day at Bob Pearl field. The field is prepped, lines are painted to perfection, and you can still smell the freshly cut grass. These features are things fans can appreciate and physically see, but there is more to game day preparation then just the field. This is where the Iowa softball managers come into play. If game time starts at 1 P.M. we are at the field at 8 A.M. to set up batting cages, get ready for warm up, prepare Dartfish (a video program that allows us to give visual feedback to the coaches/student-athletes), and set up cameras, among other things. When we’re finished with those tasks, the next item on the list is to prepare the pregame meal. We make sure all of the players and staff members get their fill before getting our own. During the game, we each have specific tasks. We have one manager in charge of Dartfish. The other three managers are in charge of things that happen in the dugout. Whether it’s throwing front toss to hitters, making sure the camera is recording, filling out charts, catching bullpens for pitchers, and of course cheering on the HAWKS! If you want to find out more about the day-to-day operations of an Iowa softball manager follow us on twitter @IowaSBmanagers.
– Braden Moser
Hey Hawkeye fans, thank you for tuning into this week’s The Dugout! My name is Isaia Paul-Emile. I’m very excited to give you all a little background on the manager side of things, but before that can happen, make sure you show your support and follow us @IowaSBmanagers on Twitter.
Coming into this job, all I knew about softball was that it is somewhat like baseball. I didn’t know what to expect, but let me tell you, it was a great decision for me. From staff members to players, I have built so many relationships that I’m beyond grateful for.
The manger squad behind the scenes is a very crucial part of the team. Our number one priority is making sure the girls have everything they need to prepare and succeed on the field. Anything from making sure they take that extra hack to making sure they have clean clothes or uniforms. Being a manager isn’t easy. People may think we’re not of any use, but we put a lot of work in. We arrive at practice early to make sure things are set up, we travel with the team, and we do so many other things that go unnoticed. Outside of softball, we have school work, but that’s no excuse for us not to give our all to our team so that they can go out and compete to the best of their ability.
Hopefully I have given you all some insight on what we do, and it was nice being with you all on this week’s episode of The Dugout. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter so that you can get more inside scoops sof what we do as managers of the Iowa softball team.
– Isaia Paul-Emile
I wanted to become a student manager for Iowa softball for many reasons, such as the passion I have always had for sports. There were other reasons, too, such as staying involved in sports, getting an inside scoop of what a day in the life of a student-athlete consists of, and getting experience for the degree I am pursuing in Sport and Recreation Management.
In my two years as a student manager for Iowa softball, I have had countless duties to handle, but that is what makes it a unique and fun experience to be part of with my fellow managers. On a day-to-day basis, we set up for practice, and while practice is in session, we handle bullpen catching duties and batting practice, among other things. During game days in my two years with the team, our duties have tend to change every now and then. We deal with batting practice, iscore, Dartfish, charting, Big Ten mandated bat testing, and grocery shopping.
Being a student manager takes up a lot of time, but it is worth the time you invest. The way to enjoy being a manager is to work hard and put in the effort on a daily basis with the coaches and players. The more you are involved with them, the easier the job becomes. I wouldn’t want any other job since the experience it provides is one of-a-kind and the different perspective it gives me on sports is helping me decide what career I want to have post-graduation. It also opens a wide variety of connections for people like me who are pursuing a degree in the Sport and Recreation. Iowa softball has provided me with one of the best experiences possible, and I will always remember my time as a manager. I have enjoyed every day as a manager because of the culture Iowa brings to the table.
I am thankful for the two years that I have been a student manager for Iowa softball because I have learned a ton of information from the coaching staff and the players. I am thankful to coach Looper for providing me with a great experience for the past two years and, most importantly, for how much she works to take care of her staff.
– Enrique Rodriguez
Being an Iowa Softball Manager is both an honor and a privilege, and it is a role that we do not take lightly. Our goals each day include making our coaches’ lives easier, helping our girls become better players, and marketing our team (follow us on twitter @IowaSBmanagers). Whether it is in practice, while travelling, or during games, we take pride in doing the jobs behind the scenes that better our program. We are the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. You may find us in the grocery store, under the bus, in the laundry room, or by the pool. You name it, we can do it; from uploading video to winning home run derbies, we do it all. We are not always the fastest, but we are the best. We are your @IowaSBmanagers.
– Deven Boland
Our managers are the glue that holds this team together. The work they do is not glamorous, but it is incredibly important not only to our student-athletes, but to our staff members as well. Much of the work these guys do is never seen — and they like it that way. The job they do is often thankless, but they continue to do their best because they are good people.
On any given day, they can be asked to set-up and tear down equipment for drills, pitch, hit, catch, shag, umpire, play the field, run the bases, do the cleaning, fix the equipment, rake the field, do the laundry, mentor, etc. When traveling, they continue to do all of the aforementioned tasks, plus they prepare and carry the gear bags, pack the bus (to perfection I might add), pick up the food, do the laundry, and anything else asked of them. They stay up late and get up early to be sure tasks are competed so the student-athletes/staff members have what they need for the day. They walk to the grocery store in winter storms to get groceries. They even write blogs! They really do it all!
When things go right, they get no praise (even though it was likely because they did their jobs to perfection). When things do not go well, they take it personally and do everything in their power to improve. Our guys are the first in and the last to leave every day. They love to have fun, but they know when it’s time to lock it down and go to work. They do all of these things with great passion and all while being full-time students. We ask a lot of them, but wouldn’t trade them for anyone. We truly have the best managers in the country! Thank you, Braden, Deven, Enrique, and Isaia!
-Director of Operations Dan Gratz
March 23, 2017
The Dugout: B1G Play Begins
Hey Hawk fans!
As you know, we had our home opener this past weekend. We were excited to get back on Pearl and win some games in front of our home crowd! This next weekend will be even more exciting because it’s finally the start of Big Ten play. Illinois will offer us a competitive series and we are looking forward to playing them.
We are excited about starting conference play. Our preseason opponents prepared us well for our upcoming series. As a team, we have been focusing on putting in a lot of hard work and carrying great attitude and great effort into each game.
The competition day in and day out in the Big Ten is strong. It’s a competitor’s dream to get to go up against some of the top pitchers in this league and fight to beat them each at bat.
The B1G is easily one of the most competitive conferences in the country – meaning it has some of the best hitters in college softball. Throwing to these top-notch batters is one of the more challenging things for a pitcher, but it is also the most rewarding. Speedy slappers, strong lefties, and big power righties — you’re likely to see them all in one game in this conference. These experiences are some of the greatest opportunities.
Our first conference game is on Friday, and we look forward to seeing you all out at the ball park! Go Hawks!
The Sophomores (Erin Riding, Brooke Rozier, and Mallory Kilian)
March 14, 2017
The Dugout: Excited to Return Home
As the junior class of the Hawkeye softball team, we could not be more excited to return to Pearl Field for our home opener on March 18th. Since our class is from all over the country, we came to realize that there is truly something special about Hawkeye fans and the supporting community. The loyalty, passion, and dedication our fans exude is unlike anything we’ve seen and is unique to the experience at Pearl Field. Through thick and thin, Iowa fans have supported us in the stands and in the community, and we look forward to playing hard in front of the best fans in the world.
Our team has started writing to little girls around the Iowa City area who play softball. It is awesome reading the excitement in the letters from the little girls about being pen pals with us. Most of the girls are planning on coming to home games, so it will be nice to meet our pen pals in person to make the experience of playing at Pearl Field even better. Little girls dream of playing on our field and the excitement that they bring to the games makes us even more excited to return to Pearl Field. This also allows us to connect with the community on a more personal level.
Having the privilege to play for our home crowd has been an honor these past couple of years. The amount of loyalty that our Hawkeye fans have is something to truly appreciate as a Hawkeye. One thing that makes Pearl Field so special is the people who come and show their constant support and loyalty to our program. As your junior class, we are extremely grateful for each and every fan who has come to Pearl Field and expressed their passion towards the game of softball. Your support is that of an endless legacy continuing to stay proud and loyal as our fans wearing the Black and Gold. See you soon and go Hawks!
The juniors (Sarah Kurtz, Katy Taylor, Angela Schmiederer, Allie Wood, Daniella Ibarra, Cheyenne Pratt, Ashley Yoways, and Daniela Chambers)
March 6, 2017
The Dugout: From Player to Coach
Hey Hawk fans!
Megan Blank here! Since graduating from Iowa in 2015, I’ve been pretty busy! I played professionally for the Chicago Bandits for two summers (winning back-to-back championships), coached at one of our rival Big Ten programs (Northwestern), and played professionally in Italy (winning a championship there as well). Now, I’m back wearing Black and Gold every day!
Honestly, I was a little nervous for the transition from being a former teammate of some of the girls to being their coach, but I think my experience at Northwestern helped ease that a little. While at Northwestern, I was coaching girls I had played against for three or four years, who I had mutual friends with, and one of the girls was even older than me. So, whenever I got a little nervous about the transition I would be making at Iowa, I had my experience at Northwestern to fall back on. Coach Looper and I had a couple of conversations about the transition, which also helped ease my mind about it.
Playing for Coach Looper and Coach B for four years definitely benefited me as I returned to the program because I know how their system works. I can relate to the players because I’ve done almost every drill that they are doing daily, and I struggled with them too. Also, the fact that I still play allows me to relate to them a little more when they are struggling. For example, this past summer, after my first 34 at-bats, I had only two hits, which is an abysmal batting average. I had never struggled so much before, but with the help of my teammates and my coaches, I simply focused on what I could control, which was swinging at the right pitches, hitting the ball hard, and the process of working every day to get a little better. These are things that our coaching staff preaches.
This very humbling experience of coaching at my alma mater gives me an opportunity to help our players work through their struggles, because I’ve lived them too. I think in my time away from the program, I’ve grown as both a player and a coach. The great thing about still playing is that I can think about the game from the player’s perspective as well as the coach’s perspective, which is something unique that I get to bring to practice every day.
It’s great to be a Hawkeye (again)!
February 28, 2017
The Dugout: The Defensive Equation
Softball is an extremely fast sport and there is so little room for error. Speed is the part of the game that makes it so challenging, yet so fun at the same time. If we can minimize the extra mistakes — the things that are controlled by knowing and understanding the game — we put ourselves in a great position to win a lot of games!
If you are around a defensive practice at Iowa, you will likely hear that word many times throughout the segment. Our defense revolves around doing the routine things right all the time!
Control the yellow ball and you can control the game. Simple right? I believe so. Too often, because of all the information in our world today, we make things much harder then we need to. Most people would say our Hawkeye defensive philosophies are pretty basic, and I would agree. I will also be the first to tell you that it is amazing how many of the standard things in our game get overlooked and are not taught, in an age where players tend to play-play-play and never practice (I’ll save you my soapbox about this issue today 🙂 ). Below is the now not-so-secret list of the Iowa Way, the defensive philosophies that our players have heard since the day we started recruiting them.
- Fundamentals are the MOST IMPORTANT thing: you must be able to throw and catch to play the game! By no means are we perfect, but we work daily on the very basic steps of throwing, catching, and fielding.
- Communication is a must! While this is not always the easiest thing for our players to do, they know this simple task can keep the game under control.
- We play defense from the ground up. It all starts with our feet and our ability to move.
- We understand the game. Yes errors will be made — it is inevitable — but thinking through situations and understanding the game with communication can eliminate the senseless errors that are never marked or seen in a scorebook.
- We understand the opponent, but we defend the ball. While there are tendencies that we can play to, we will we always fall back on taking care of the ball instead of getting so caught up in the opponent, so not a lot of shifts here.
- Everybody on the field wants the ball and knows what they are going to do with it when they get it. Preparation breeds confidence.
- We are aggressive. Errors will happen, but the errors that happen by playing passive are the ones that we do not accept.
I know there is no new earth-shattering information here — no new equations, no scientific breakthroughs, and for that I apologize. As you watch softball from here on out, really look to see how many players are in the right spot throughout an entire play, see how many cuts are missed by outfielders, or how a lack of communication allows an out to become a single. It happens more than most realize and can cost a team runs.
As you watch our team play this year, sit back and enjoy the defense and know that every day they are intently focused. Our girls take great pride in being a top defensive team nationally! We are a determined group that works hard daily to take care of the ball and understand the game. With great talent, consistent hard work, and understanding, this year’s squad has a lot of versatility. Don’t be surprised if you see people in positions they have not played for us yet!
Lastly, remember: if the other team does not score, you can never lose!
Adrianna Baggetta (Coach B)
February 22, 2017
The Dugout: The Offensive Outlook
After losing our only .300 hitters to graduation, our offensive outlook will consist of a collaborative effort. When the players returned to Iowa City in January, with the 2017 season on the horizon, we did the same thing we have done since I have been in Black & Gold: A quality at-bat approach, and a hit-the-ball-hard mindset. The team did a great job of buying into my offensive philosophies in 2016, and because of their efforts, we improved in almost all offensive categories. We will rely heavily on a team approach to continue that improvement. Our overall goals are to produce a quality at-bat every time we get in the box. The quality at-bat objectives are:
- Get a hit
- Get walked, or hit by a pitch
- Reach base on an error
- Advance a runner
- See a lot of pitches (6 pitch at-bat)
- Hit the ball hard
By focusing on these objectives we will get on base more and we will move closer to scoring, which in turn will produce more runs. This team-forward approach gives the players a more attainable goal than just getting a hit. It highlights the success of a team player. Our focus isn’t on batting average; it is on quality at-bat average (QUAB average). Our goal is to have a quality at-bat average of 60-65%. We are very fortunate to have great leadership in our returners. Angela Schmiederer and Kaitlyn Mullarkey both had great QUAB averages and continue to lead by example. They focus on the job at hand and prepare, both mentally and physically, before each at-bat. I am very excited about the efforts of Brooke Rozier and Allie Wood as well. They are hitting the ball hard right now. If they continue with this approach, I have no doubt the ball will start to fall. The game treats you well when you play it the right way.
February 16, 2017
The Dugout: A Freshmen Perspective
Hey Hawkeye Fans!
We are the freshman class and we want to share about our experiences for the preseason and opening weekend. Entering the New Year after winter break, we all traveled back a week before school started to begin prepping for our upcoming season. We designated this week “Heaven Week” because it was a full week of being able to play the game we love without having to worry about classes.
While we were away on winter break, we were paired up and each group was assigned a book to read that would help with the mental side of the game. We discussed these books as a team during “Heaven Week”. Each book described a different aspect of the mental game that we, both as individuals and as a team, wanted to work on. We read books such as Mind Gym by Gary Mack and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. We believe that studying these books and implementing these ideas will help set us apart from our competition. The rest of our week was spent working on drills that will help us work as a unit instead of nine individual players on a field.
We then had four weeks of learning how to balance practices and classes in the second semester of our careers before the season started. Then it was finally game week! Our first weekend, we headed to San Marcos, Texas, to play against Abilene Christian, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas State, and Texas Tech. For some of us freshmen, it was the first time we would ever experience heat in February, but we were excited to finally be playing against an opponent. We were also excited to be able to play outside on a real field instead of inside on a turf field.
As a team, we wanted to come out of this weekend with a few more wins, but we take every game as an experience that we can learn and grow from. We have a lot of excitement surrounding this season. We know what we can bring to the table and we can’t wait to be able to show that again next weekend in Atlanta at the ACC/Big Ten challenge.
We love you Hawkeye fans, and we can’t wait to play in front of you on March 18!
So Long from the Freshman Class,
Taylor Libby, Havyn Monteer, Allison Doocy, Alex Rath, Lea Thompson, McKenzie Schneider, Devin Cantu, and Taylor MaKowsky
February 10, 2017
The Dugout: Welcome to the season
Hello Hawkeye fans and welcome to The Dugout! It is my pleasure to open up the 2017 blogging season.
Like each year, our season began in the fall when we welcomed our newcomers (eight this season) and started forming the team that will be Iowa Softball 2017.
The growth of a team is like a science experiment: (1) Form your hypothesis based on what you saw in recruiting and what you are bringing back from the previous season. (2) Training, teaching, lifting, mental training, conditioning, and team building take place five to six days a week. (3) Make adjustments in positions on the field, challenge the student-athletes in the classroom, push them to their limits emotionally and physically, teach them to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and see them mature and grow. (4) Form a conclusion… did our results contradict or support our original hypothesis.
Iowa Softball 2017 is now in step 3. Each time we step in the cages, on the field, and in the bullpen, this team has found a way to continue to push both themselves and each other to be better “today”. As we embark on the 2017 softball season, we will face some of the best teams and talent in the country. Playing these teams will only make us better and will give us the opportunity to make our mark.
We will face a challenging non-conference schedule. We begin the year with 25 non-conference games that will set us up for our conference opener up at home with Illinois (March 24). For us to be the best, we must play the best and beat the best.
I can’t wait for you all to see, get to know, support, and love Iowa Softball 2017. My hope is that you will see them as great young women and not just softball players. I hope that their presence is felt, they show you genuine passion, and that the discipline to compete every moment of every day is something you can’t stop talking about.
The conclusion of this experiment will be written in June, but each day we will strive to support our hypothesis that this group is a both a team and a family. They will move forward, taking one pitch at a time, one game at a time, and one day at a time. With that, they will write their own conclusion.
We can’t wait to see all of that Black and Gold in the stands cheering for Iowa Softball 2017!
Coach Marla Looper