Feb. 20, 2014
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.
By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa softball infielder Claire Fritsch grew up an hour and a half from Waco, Texas, attended week-long softball camps at Baylor's field and watched her older brother pitch collegiately for the Bears.
At last weekend's Getterman Classic in front of her family and friends, Fritsch made her mark on the town in a big way wearing an Iowa uniform. The Round Rock, Texas, native was named to the all-tournament team after leading all batters with a .538 (7-for-13) batting average. Of her seven total hits, two were doubles -- the first of her Hawkeye career.
"I just wanted to be relaxed and put the ball in play," Fritsch said. "Some of my hits weren't the greatest, but I got on base and that is the most important thing I can do for this team. It was a great experience. I've played on Baylor's field since I was a little kid, so it was comforting, and having my family there made it even better."
Fritsch, who is entering the third weekend of competition in her collegiate career, has been a consistent contributor for the Hawkeyes in any offensive situation she finds herself in.
"It's huge for us," said fourth-year UI head coach Marla Looper. "We try to eliminate the freshman word. We don't recruit many players to come in and sit for a couple of years and then eventually step on the field.
"We expect them to come in and compete for a spot on day one. If they use the 'I'm just a freshman excuse,' it can become a crutch, and they don't expect success from themselves. We try to eliminate that word early on so they have the ability to succeed."
The nine-hole hitter paces the team in batting average (.444), on-base percentage (.476) and steals (3), and is second in slugging percentage (.556).
"So many people have written the bottom of the lineup off as the worst hitters, and it's not true because they are table setters for the top of the lineup," Looper said. "The top of the order is only guaranteed to be up at the beginning of the game, and after we go through one time, it doesn't matter what order they are.
"Claire is a table setter. She gets on, has good speed and we can move her without having to sacrifice someone's bat to do it. It gives us a little spark and the top of the lineup, which usually includes your hotter sticks, can come up to bat in an RBI situation."
The Hawkeyes continue their season with a three-game series at Mississippi State this weekend. The games are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.