March 14, 2014
University of Iowa softball begins its spring break slate with a three-game series at Texas on March 15-17. The games are set to begin at 4 p.m. (CT) on Saturday and Sunday, while the series ends with a 7 p.m. (CT) contest on Monday. The Hawkeyes then travel to San Marcos, Texas, to face Texas State at 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, March 19.
All three games at Texas will be shown live on the Longhorn Network. To find out if your television package includes the Longhorn Network, click HERE. Alex Loeb and Megan Willis will call Saturday's game, Loeb and Cat Osterman will call Sunday's game, and Carter Blackburn and Osterman will call Monday's contest. Fans can also listen to the games online HERE for a fee.
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
Fans can follow along with each game at Texas and Texas State through live stats. Links to live stats are available on the softball schedule page of hawkeyesports.com. For in-game updates and game delay information, follow @IowaSoftball on Twitter and "like" the official Facebook page, facebook.com/iowahawkeyessoftball.
Iowa and Texas are even in the all-time series, 1-1. The teams last met in a double header on Feb. 7, 2009. The Hawkeyes won the first contest, 4-1, and fell to the Longhorns in the second game, 3-2.
Iowa leads Texas State in the all-time series, 3-0. The Hawkeyes topped the Bobcats, 5-4, on Feb. 8, 2013; 4-1 on Feb. 19, 2010; and 10-1 on March 28, 1980.
Fourth-year head coach Marla Looper returns to Austin, Texas, to play the Longhorns for the first time since taking over the Iowa program in 2010. Looper spent 11 years as an assistant on the Texas coaching staff under Connie Clark before accepting the head coaching position at the UI. Two former Longhorns who played at Texas during Looper's tenure -- pitcher Cat Osterman and catcher Megan Willis -- will be providing color analysis for the Longhorn Network's broadcast of the series.
The Hawkeyes average more than one double per game (1.43) and are 61st in the category nationally heading into the sixth week of the season. Six of nine starters have hit at least two doubles so far giving the team 20 doubles on the season, seven more than their opponents. The Hawkeyes recorded a game-high four doubles against Valparaiso on Feb. 28 at the Wildcat Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. Senior Michelle Zoeller leads the team with five doubles, followed by sophomore Erin Erickson who has hit four. Junior Megan Blank, freshman Claire Fritsch, and sophomore Whitney Repole have hit three apiece, while senior Kayla Massey has two doubles on the year.
UI softball has turned eight double plays in 14 games, ranking the team 10th nationally in double plays per game (0.57). Every player in the infield with the exception of a pitcher has taken part in at least one double play. First baseman Alyssa Navarro has been a part of seven double plays, and second baseman Claire Fritsch follows closely behind with six. Shortstop Megan Blank (3), third baseman Michelle Zoeller (2), and catcher Holly Hoffman (1) have also played a part in double plays this season.
ON A ROLL
Junior Megan Blank raised her batting average from .257 to .317 after posting a .667 (4-for-6) average at the Wildcat Invitational, Feb. 28-March 2. She went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI in Iowa's run rule, 8-0 win over Valparaiso on Feb. 28. She finished the weekend with a second 2-for-3 effort at the plate in the team's 4-1 loss to Longwood on March 2.
Catcher Holly Hoffman has consistently been erasing base runners for the Hawkeyes this season. The redshirt sophomore has thrown out 8-of-17 runners attempting to steal a base (47 percent). Her eight runners caught stealing leads the Big Ten. The second-highest caught stealing total is seven, held by Nebraska's Taylor Edwards. Hoffman needs to catch just four additional runners stealing to match her 2013 season total of 12.
TAKING ON THE BEST
Two of Iowa's 10 losses have come at the hands of ranked foes: No. 14/18 Missouri on Feb. 14 (2-1 in eight innings) and No. 14/16 Baylor on Feb. 15 (2-0). The Hawkeyes have also been defeated by teams receiving votes in at least one of the national polls on six occasions this year: Lipscomb on Feb. 14 (10-0 in five innings), UAB on Feb. 15 (6-1 in nine innings), and Mississippi State on Feb. 21 (2-0), Feb. 22 (5-0), and Feb. 23 (9-1 in five innings). Iowa is scheduled to play No. 14/17 Nebraska and No. 25/RV Northwestern three times and No. 16/18 Missouri and No. 18/21 Minnesota twice in the remainder of the 2014 season.
IN PURSUIT OF 100
Fourth-year head coach Marla Looper has a career coaching record of 88-84 (.512). She is just 12 wins from achieving her 100th win as a head coach. Looper recorded 27 wins in 2011, 27 wins in 2012, and added 30 wins in 2013. The team's 30 wins last season was the highest win total since 2009 when the Hawkeyes posted a 42-19 mark.
A LOOK AT THE LONGHORNS
Big 12 Conference member Texas has a 16-13 overall record heading into the weekend. The Longhorn roster is comprised of seven freshmen, six sophomores, two juniors, and four seniors. Eighteenth-year head coach Connie Clark leads the team and is assisted by Corrie Hill and Jennifer McFalls. Twelve Longhorns are hitting above .300 on the season. Gabby Smith has a team-high nine wins in the circle, while Tiarra Davis has a team-best 2.31 earned run average and 73 strikeouts.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS
Sun Belt Conference member Texas State is 15-10 heading into spring break. The Bobcats are led by 14th-year head coach Ricci Woodard, who is assisted by Peejay Brun and Amber Daniel. The roster is made up of five freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. Three Bobcat starters own a batting average above .300, including Timishia North (.338), Kelli Baker (.338), and Courtney Harris (.333). Ryan House leads the team in wins (12-5), earned run average (1.81), shutouts (6), innings pitched (108.0), and strikeouts (120).
As a team, Iowa is nationally ranked 10th in double plays per game (0.57), 39th in triples per game (0.29), 61st in doubles per game (1.43), and 82nd in earned run average (2.93).
Sophomore Sammi Gyerman is ranked 18th in triples per game (0.18) and 32nd in triples (2).
Senior Kayla Massey ranks 58th in shutouts (2).
Senior Michelle Zoeller is ranked 74th in doubles per game (0.36).
2014 BIG TEN RANKINGS
Sophomore Sammi Gyerman is third in triples (2).
Senior Kayla Massey is ninth in earned run average (2.27) and 10th in opposing batting average (.221).
Redshirt freshman Shayla Starkenburg is first in triples allowed (0); second in hits allowed (15); fifth in saves (1), runs allowed (15) and earned runs allowed (11); seventh in home runs allowed (1); eighth in doubles allowed (4); and ninth in opposing batting average (.214) and games finished (4)
Sophomore Micaela Whitney is first in triples allowed (0); fourth in hits allowed (21) and doubles allowed (3); fifth in runs allowed (15) and earned runs allowed (11); and 10th in walks allowed (14).
Freshman Alyssa Navarro is third in fielding double plays (7), seventh in chances (122), and eighth in putouts (113).
Freshman Claire Fritsch is fourth in fielding double plays (6) and 11th in assists (39).
Redshirt sophomore Holly Hoffman leads the conference in runners caught stealing (8) and ranks fifth in steal attempts against (17).
COLLEGE SPORTS MADNESS RUNDOWN
College Sports Madness recognized Iowa softball on several occasions in the preseason. The Hawkeyes were named the No. 40 team in the country by the site on Jan. 9. College Sports Madness also recognized shortstop Megan Blank as a preseason first team All-Big Ten and preseason second team All-American in February.
A STELLAR DEBUT
Redshirt freshman Shayla Starkenburg made a successful Hawkeye debut at the Carolina Classic. The right-handed pitcher collected the first start, win, shutout, and one-hitter of her Hawkeye career in Iowa's first game of 2014 against UNC Greensboro on Feb. 7. Her no-hit bid held until midway through the sixth, when UNCG recorded a single. She recorded five strikeouts in her seven innings pitched. Starkenburg made her second appearance of the season in relief against Presbyterian. She entered the contest in a bases loaded situation with two outs and an Iowa lead to protect. With the game on the line, Starkenburg ended the threat, forcing a ground out to end the game in Iowa's favor 6-3 and record her first career save. Starkenburg made her third and final appearance against Ohio in relief. She held the Bobcats hitless and scoreless. On the weekend, Starkenburg posted 1-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and five strikeouts. She gave up just one hit, holding her opponents to a .043 batting average.
FRITSCH SHINES IN HOME STATE
Hawkeye infielder Claire Fritsch was named to the Getterman Classic all-tournament team after leading all hitters with a .538 batting average (7-of-13). Of her seven total hits, two were doubles -- the first of her Iowa career. She also added an RBI, stolen base, sacrifice bunt and a run scored. The freshman grew up in Round Rock, Texas, just an hour and a half from Waco, and her parents were in the stands to see her excel on the field in an Iowa uniform.
Hawkeye junior Megan Blank appeared on the Top 50 Watch List for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year released on Jan. 29, 2014. The shortstop -- making the list for the first time in her career -- is one-of-seven student-athletes from the Big Ten and one-of-20 juniors included in the Top 50. The list is narrowed to the top 25 on April 9, the top 10 on May 7, and the top 3 on May 21. The 2014 Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be announced prior to the start of the Women's College World Series on May 27. The award, given by the National Governing Body for softball in the United States, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.
A NEW BATTING LEADER
Megan Blank hit .437 in 2013, setting Iowa's single season batting average record. The previous record was .428, set by Kim Davis in 1993. Her career average is .413, also marking the highest in program history. Blank's 59 RBIs in 2013 mark the second-highest single-season total in program history. Debbie Bilbao posted a school record 61 RBIs in 1997. Blank also belted 11 home runs in 2013 -- the third-highest single-season total.
BLANK INVITED TO 2013 USA NATIONAL TEAM SELECTION CAMP
Shortstop Megan Blank was invited to the 2013 USA Softball Women's National Team Selection Camp, held in Oklahoma City on June 10-12 at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex following her sophomore season. Blank was one of 32 athletes, and one of six sophomores, invited.
BLANK HONORED BY NFCA
Shortstop Megan Blank was named a 2013 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) First Team All-Midwest Region selection, earning her second all-region honor in as many seasons. Blank is the sixth Hawkeye in program history to garner all-region honors in each of her first two seasons. She became the ninth player in program history to earn all-region recognition as a freshman, as she was named to the second team.
B1G TOURNEY RETURNS IN 2013
The Big Ten Tournament returned in 2013 for the first time since 2008. The Hawkeyes have claimed two Big Ten Tournament titles (2001, 2003) and won 21 games in the event all-time -- the second most of any team. The conference tournament was discontinued from 2009-12. Iowa fell to Ohio State, 8-4, in the first round at Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. The Hawkeyes held a 4-1 advantage moving to the bottom of the fifth before the Buckeyes plated six runs to rally for the victory.
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).
UI softball opens its Big Ten Conference slate at Illinois. The three-game series begins with a 6 p.m. (CT) contest on March 21, continues with a 1 p.m. (CT) game on March 22, and concludes with a 1 p.m. (CT) game on March 23. The Fighting Illini swept the Hawkeyes last season in double header action, winning game one 8-5 and game two 6-3.