The University of Iowa softball team returns to the state of Texas to continue action this weekend, playing in the Lovelace Invitational in Denton, Texas. Iowa opens play against Dayton (9 a.m.) and Oklahoma State (2 p.m.) on Friday. The Hawkeyes face Nebraska-Omaha (2 p.m.) and host North Texas (4:30 p.m.) on Saturday, 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.
Hawkeye fans can follow the University of Iowa softball team on social media platforms Twitter (@iowasoftball) and Facebook (facebook.com/iowahawkeyessoftball). Game updates will be tweeted during each game.
ON THE WEB
SEASON TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE
Fans interested in attending home games at Pearl Field should visit hawkeyesports.com or contact the UI Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800 IA-HAWKS to secure season tickets. Season tickets are currently on sale for $20 for the reserved seating area, $15 for general public in the general admission area, and $12 for faculty/staff general admission. All youth, 18 and younger, and UI students are admitted free to all home games. Purchase is required for all reserved seats, regardless of age. Iowa opens its home slate with a three-game set against Big Ten rival Minnesota, March 22-24. The Hawkeyes will also host three-game series against Nebraska (April 5-7) and Penn State (April 26-28), in addition to a doubleheader against Illinois (April 23). No. 8 Missouri comes to town (April 17) for a doubleheader, and Iowa State travels to Iowa City for the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game on May 1.
SOLID START IN HOUSTON
Iowa opened its 2013 campaign in Houston, Texas, last weekend at the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic, hosted by the University of Houston. The Hawkeyes finished with a 3-2 mark, earning wins over Texas State (5-4), host Houston (4-1), and No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette (13-10). Iowa dropped its season opener to Lipscomb (4-0) and the tournament finale to the Cajuns (11-0).
BLANK NAMED PRIMETIME PERFORMER
Iowa sophomore Megan Blank was named a Primetime Performer by CollegeSoftball360 for her performance in Iowa's opening weekend tournament -- the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic. Blank, who became the ninth player in school history to garner first team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman, and the ninth to earn all-region recognition as a freshman in 2012, picked up where she left off a year ago, hitting .333 in Iowa's first weekend. She led the Hawkeyes to wins over Texas State, Houston and No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette. The win over the Cajuns marked Iowa's first over a ranked opponent since it defeated No. 23 Oklahoma State last year, 5-3, on March 3. No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette is the highest-ranked team the Hawkeyes have defeated since winning at No. 1 Michigan on April, 23, 2011. Blank had the game-winning two-run double in Iowa's come-from-behind win over Texas State on Friday. Saturday, she hit two home runs in leading Iowa to wins over the Cougars and Cajuns. Against No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette, Blank had a career-best five RBIs. For the weekend, she batted .333 with five hits, two home runs, a double and eight RBIs. She slugged .800 and matched her home run total from a year ago in one day's work on Saturday.
Iowa has never faced Dayton or North Texas.
Iowa is 2-0 all-time against Nebraska-Omaha. Both victories came during the 1981 season.
The Hawkeyes are 3-11 all-time against Oklahoma State. Iowa has won three of the last five meetings overall. The Hawkeyes and Cowgirls split two games a year ago. Iowa dropped a 6-5 decision in eight innings at No. 23 Oklahoma State on March 2, before winning 5-3 in Oklahoma City in the first game of the Hall of Fame Tournament on March 3.
Dayton will open its season Friday against Iowa. The Flyers finished 22-29 overall a year ago.
Nebraska-Omaha is 5-0 to start the season. The Mavericks defeated Iona and Detroit twice and UNC-Wilmington in their opening weekend.
North Texas is 3-2. The Mean Green topped Memphis twice and Texas A&M Corpus-Christi, and lost twice to No. 7 Texas during the opening weekend.
Oklahoma State finished its opening tournament with a 2-2 mark. The Cowgirls claimed wins against Weber State and Colorado State, and dropped decisions to Seattle and Utah Valley.
BLANK, MASSEY EARN PRESEASON ALL-B1G HONORS
Junior pitcher Kayla Massey and sophomore infielder Megan Blank were selected to the 2013 Big Ten Preseason All-Conference First Team by College Sports Madness. Massey, a 2012 first team All-Big Ten selection, earns the nod after posting a 15-11 record with a 2.04 ERA last year, notching seven shutouts and 24 complete games in 26 starts. She had 120 strikeouts over 185.2 innings. A native of Foothill Ranch, Calif., she has compiled 27 wins and a 2.60 ERA in 68 career appearances inside the circle. Blank became the ninth player in school history in 2012 to garner first team All-Big Ten honors as a freshman and ninth player in program history to earn all-region recognition as a freshman. The Culver City, Calif., native was a NFCA Second Team All-Midwest region selection. She started all 53 games at shortstop and led the team with a .390 batting average with 34 runs and 29 RBIs. Blank turned in a team-best 24 extra base hits with 17 doubles, five triples and two home runs. The 17 doubles are tied for fourth in the Iowa record books, the triples are tied for eighth and the batting average is tied for 10th.
INTRODUCING YOUR 2013 HAWKEYES
The Hawkeyes have eight new faces on the 2013 roster -- eight incoming freshmen. Iowa's roster is full of youth, as 12-of-the-24 players are underclassmen. The Hawkeyes have three sophomores, seven juniors and five seniors (Ashley Akers, Johnnie Dowling, Sam Valentine, Bradi Wall and Chelsea Lyon). Iowa returns four players that earned All-Big Ten honors a year ago (Dowling, juniors Kayla Massey and Michelle Zoeller, and sophomore Megan Blank).
A LOOK BACK AT 2012
Head coach Marla Looper led the Hawkeyes to a runner-up finish in the Big Ten in 2012 -- the program's highest finish since winning the league title in 2003. Iowa dropped two of its first three conference series before winning five straight to close out the season. It was the first time the team had won five straight series since 2004. Iowa entered the final weekend with a conference title within reach, but it couldn't close the gap with Michigan despite taking 2-of-3 games at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes finished with a 27-26 overall and 16-8 conference record. Five players garnered All-Big Ten recognition, including three first-team selections. Senior Liz Watkins, sophomore Kayla Massey and freshman Megan Blank earned first-team accolades, sophomore Michelle Zoeller was a second-team honoree, and junior Johnnie Dowling was a third-team selection. Blank also garnered NFCA second team all-region honors during her freshman campaign. She is the ninth Hawkeye to earn first team All-Big Ten and all-region honors during her freshman season.
IOWA'S 1-2 PUNCH
The Hawkeyes return two pitchers -- senior Chelsea Lyon and junior Kayla Massey -- that hurled 354.2 innings pitched out of 355.0 total innings for the team in 2012. Lyon has made 93 career appearances inside the circle, with 68 starts. She has tossed 40 complete games and holds a career 2.97 ERA in 440.1 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). Massey was named first team All-Big Ten in 2012, posting a 15-11 record with a 2.04 ERA. Massey 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. She has made 50 career starts as a Hawkeye in 68 appearances, registering 40 complete games and 27 victories. The Hawkeyes finished second in the Big Ten in pitching (2.31 ERA) in 2012.
Head coach Marla Looper has two more pitchers at her disposal in 2013. Freshmen Shayla Starkenburg and Micaela Whitney will give the Hawkeyes pitching options. Starkenburg, who hails from Ankeny, Iowa, was elected as the 2012 5A Pitcher of the Year and first team all-state honoree as a senior, after posting a 31-0 record with a 0.58 ERA. She had 222 strikeouts in 191.2 innings, allowing 20 runs (16 earned) and 99 hits, guiding Ankeny High School to a 39-6 overall record en route to the state title. Whitney was a Nebraska Coaches Association All Star first team and Nebraska All-State Class A selection as a senior. She went 20-9 with a 1.42 ERA over 182.2 innings pitched, while posting 217 strikeouts and allowing 69 runs. The rookie duo joins Lyon, Massey, and junior Brittanee Grove on the pitching staff. Whitney finished 1-0 with a 2.62 ERA in two appearances during Iowa's opening weekend.
LET'S TURN TWO
The Hawkeyes were third in fielding (.967) in the Big Ten a year ago. The squad turned 26 double plays during the course of the season to rank sixth nationally in double plays per game (.49).
PLAYING WITH THE BEST OF 'EM
The Hawkeyes will face a difficult schedule in 2013. Iowa will play 13 opponents that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, including defending national champion Alabama. The Hawkeyes will play eight teams ranked in the USA Today/Division I Top 25 Poll -- Alabama (No. 1), Missouri (No. 8), Michigan (No. 14), Louisiana-Lafayette (No. 15), Louisville (No. 17), Stanford (No. 22), North Carolina (No. 23), and Kentucky (No. 24). Iowa went 1-1 against the Ragin' Cajuns during the opening weekend.
WALL BRINGS HOME THE HARDWARE
Senior Bradi Wall, a member of the Canadian Women's National Baseball Team, was selected as recipient of the team's 2012 Jimmy Rattlesnake Award in November. The award is presented annually to the player who shows great performance and sportsmanship. Wall did not play prep softball, as it was not sponsored in her hometown. She played on the boys' baseball team.
2/3 OF OUTFIELD IN TACT
The Hawkeyes return two of their three outfield starters in seniors Ashley Akers and Johnnie Dowling. Akers played in 52-of-53 games with 52 starts, all coming in left field in 2012. Dowling started all 53 games in center field a year ago, making her one of three Hawkeyes to start every game.
The Hawkeyes will play their first 28 games away from Iowa City before making their Pearl Field debut March 22 against Big Ten rival Minnesota. Iowa will rack up the frequent flier miles, as it will log nearly 12,000 miles (11,811) with trips to Houston, Texas; Denton, Texas; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Fullerton, Calif.; College Park, Md.; Louisville, Ky.; and Lexington, Ky. Iowa is 1-0 in true road games and 2-2 at neutral sites.
DOWLING MAKES THE MOVE
At the plate, junior Johnnie Dowling made the transition from a right-handed hitter to a left-handed slapper following the 2011 season to utilize her speed. The Des Moines, Iowa, native hit .216 with five home runs as a sophomore. Dowling hitting a career-best .308 last season from the left side of the plate on her way to third team All-Big Ten honors. She also had career highs in runs (35), hits (53) and walks (9). Dowling had 15 multi-hit games and led the team with a .381 average during conference play.
MAY-JOHNSON SHINES FOR TEAM USA
UI assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson was selected as the 2011 USA Softball Female Athlete of the Year. She earned the honor after helping Team USA to gold medals at the World Cup of Softball VII and the Pan American Games. May-Johnson batted a team-best .418 with team highs in home runs (six), runs (26) and RBI (36). In 2012, May-Johnson helped the USA Softball Team to the gold medal at the 2012 World Cup of Softball presented by Lumber Liquidators. May-Johnson started 5-of-6 games for Team USA, posting a .357 (5-of-14) batting average with three runs, two RBIs and two walks. Her best game came in a 9-0 victory over Canada, where she went 2-for-2 with a run scored. The Americans posted a perfect 6-0 record during the competition, and they outscored their opponents, 41-3, in the five day event.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Grove triplets -- Brittanee, Malloree and Steviee -- have been reunited as teammates on the Iowa softball team. Brittanee and Malloree played their freshman seasons at Creighton University, while Steviee was a catcher at Indiana State.
CARMODY BACK WITH THE HAWKS
Former Hawkeye Chelsey Carmody is back with the Iowa softball program, serving as volunteer assistant coach. Carmody started 208 career games in the Iowa infield. A career .335 hitter, she was a team co-captain and was the recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award as a senior. She batted .320 or higher during each of her four seasons in the Black and Gold, totaling 234 career hits, 11 home runs, 87 RBI and 42 stolen bases. Carmody played for UI head coach Marla Looper in 2011 as a senior.
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).
B1G TOURNEY IS BACK
The Big Ten Tournament is back this season for the first time since 2008. Following the conclusion of the regular season, Iowa will travel to Lincoln, Neb., May 9-12. The Hawkeyes have claimed two Big Ten Tournament titles (2001, 2003) and have won 21 games in the event all-time, marking the second most of any team. The conference tournament was discontinued from 2009-12.
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa continues action Feb. 22-24 in the Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Hawkeyes face No. 1 Alabama and Winthrop twice, before facing Western Illinois on Sunday to conclude the tournament.