24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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The University of Iowa softball team faces Illinois in a three-game Big Ten Conference series on Saturday and Sunday at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini will play a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday before closing out the series Sunday at 2 p.m. All three games will be streamed live via Hawkeye All-Access.
The three-game series between Iowa and Illinois will be streamed live online via the BTN's "Student U" broadcast. The streamed content is available on the All-Access page at hawkeyesports.com.
Fans can listen to every game for the remainder of the 2012 season via the All-Access page at hawkeyesports.com. Rob Brooks, the voice of Iowa softball, will call the action. Hawkeye All-Access is a subscription service that charges $9.95 per month.
ON THE WEB
Fans can follow the action at hawkeyesports.com, where live stats (Gametracker) will be available. The live "GT" can be found under the calendar tab on the right-hand side of the hawkeyesports.com home page, or on the softball schedule page.
Hawkeye fans can follow the University of Iowa softball team on the social media platforms Twitter (@iowasoftball) and Facebook (facebook.com/iowahawkeyessoftball). Game updates will be tweeted during each game.
The first 100 kids in attendance to Saturday's game against Illinois will receive free bubbles. The game will also be the "Kids Take Over Pearl Field Day" with kids being matched up with the announcers, photographers, scorers and more. Fans can also register to win a free iPod shuffle.
On Sunday, sunglasses and Iowa softball trading cards will be handed out to the first 100 fans. It will also be Facebook/Twitter fan appreciation day with free admission with a promo code and Iowa City Girls Softball Reunion Day. Sunday fans can play Iowa Softball Bingo for a chance to win a free pizza from Pizza Hut.
Illinois enters the weekend with a 16-11 overall record and 2-1 mark in Big Ten Conference play. The Fighting Illini downed Indiana State, 7-2, Wednesday night behind a 4-for-4 outing by third baseman Kelley Wedel.
Illinois has two players batting above .300 on the season, and the team has a .246 batting average. Meredith Hackett is hitting .350 with a team-best six home runs and 20 RBI. She is the only Illinois player in double digits in RBI. Jess Perkins is batting .301 with 12 runs and six RBI.
The Fighting Illini rely heavily on the arm of Pepper Gay. The junior is 11-4 on the year with a 1.53 ERA and two saves. She has four complete game shutouts and 99 strikeouts in 100.2 innings. Gay is limiting opposing batters to a .185 batting average. Jackie Guy is 5-7 with a 3.47 ERA. She has 62 strikeouts in 76.2 innings of work.
Iowa leads the all-time series over Illinois, 15-10. Last season, the Fighting Illini swept the two game series in Iowa City on May 4 by the scores of 8-2 and 6-2. Illinois has won four straight in the series, but Iowa had prevailed in the previous seven meetings from 2006-09.
The Fighting Illini took 2-of-3 games from Minnesota to open Big Ten play. They won 2-0 and 4-3 in Saturday's doubleheader before falling 14-4 in the series finale.
Illinois has won nine of its last 11 games dating back to March 3 with its only defeats coming against Maryland (5-0) and Minnesota (14-4).
Junior Pepper Gay ranks third in the Big Ten with a 1.46 ERA. She also ranks second in opposing batting average (.182), fourth in strikeouts (99) and fifth in innings pitched (100.2)and wins (11).
Illinois student assistant Danielle Zymkowitz was a teammate of Iowa assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson last summer in helping the Chicago Bandits claim the NPF Championship.
The Hawkeyes rank third in the Big Ten Conference in team fielding (.963), fourth in team pitching (2.45) and 10th in team batting (.251).
Freshman Megan Blank is sixth in the Big Ten with a .405 batting average and her nine doubles are tied for second. The shortstop ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in four offensive categories -- doubles (t2nd - 9), batting average (6th - .405), on-base percentage (7th - .489) and hits (t8th - 32).
Sophomore Kayla Massey (2.39) and junior Chelsea Lyon (2.52) are sixth and eighth, respectively, in the conference in ERA.
Freshmen Melanie Gladden and Tor Hawley recorded Iowa's second and third triples of the season against Wisconsin. All three of Iowa's three-baggers this season have come from the freshman class.
Hawley and sophomore Malloree Grove tallied the first hits of their Iowa careers on March 24 against the Badgers. Grove went 2-for-3 with a pair of bunt singles.
Junior Johnnie Dowling batted .455 with five hits in 11 at-bats last weekend in the Big Ten-opening weekend against Wisconsin.
Iowa scored 26 runs in the 26-5 rout of Iowa State on Feb. 19. The Hawkeyes plated 13 runs in the top of the third inning alone. Iowa didn't score 13 runs in a game last season.
Sixteen of Iowa's 28 games have been decided two runs or less. Iowa is 6-10 in such games.
The Hawkeyes are 9-5 this season when scoring three or more runs and 8-5 when scoring the game's first run.
Four Iowa players -- Megan Blank, Katie Keim, Johnnie Dowling and Bradi Wall -- have started every game this season.
NOT SHYING AWAY FROM TOP COMPETITION
The Hawkeyes have not shied away from playing against the nation's elite. Iowa has played 10 games against ranked teams, including eight games against top 13 ranked foes.
Iowa is 1-9 against ranked competition with its lone victory coming against No. 23 Oklahoma State, 6-5, on March 3 in Oklahoma City. The Hawkeyes nearly defeated No. 5 Arizona State in Tempe, falling 5-2 despite taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Hawkeyes have squared off against three pitchers -- Missouri's Chelsea Thomas, Baylor's Whitney Canion and Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts -- that played for the USA Women's National Team last summer.
Ten different Hawkeyes have tallied at least one multi-hit game this season. Senior Katie Keim and freshman Megan Blank are leading the team with 10 multi-hit contests, while junior Johnnie Dowling has seven such games.
KEIM HITS FOURTH LONG BALL
Senior Katie Keim connected on her team-leading fourth home run in the 5-4 loss to Wisconsin on March 25. The first baseman is batting .303 with a 21 RBI to pace the Hawkeyes.
Keim's 21 RBI are a single season career best and her four home runs match her 2011 producton. Her .506 slugging percentage is nearly 150 points higher than her career average (.354).
RECORD SETTING ROUT
Iowa had a record-setting 26-5 rout of Iowa State on Feb. 18 at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The Hawkeyes set school records for runs (26), hits (29), RBI (23), total bases (41) and single game batting average (.659). Iowa scored 13 runs in the second inning alone, which is believed to be the school record.
Senior Katie Keim set a school record with five runs scored, while senior Liz Watkins tied the single game school record with five hits.
BLANK EARNS BIG TEN ACCOLADE
Shortstop Megan Blank was tabbed Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Feb. 13 after posting a .583 batting average with six runs and two steals at the Getterman Classic. The California native reached base at nearly a 70 percent clip, getting on twice or more in four games. She went 3-for-3 against Arkansas, drew four walks against Wichita State and scored the game-winning run in the 1-0 win over UT-Arlington.
BLANK, AKERS EARN ALL-TOURNAMENT RECOGNITION
Freshman Megan Blank and junior Ashley Akers were selected to the Getterman Classic all-Tournament Team. Blank collected hits in 7-of-12 at-bats for a .583 average, while Akers batted .500, tallying six hits in 12 at-bats.
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.
WALL STILL GROWING
The 2012 season will be junior Bradi Wall's third year playing softball. Growing up, she played baseball and parlayed that experience into two appearances for the Canada National Baseball Team. The last two years Wall played softball at Iowa Western Community College, where she earned All-America recognition after batting .458 with 32 doubles.
MAY-JOHNSON AND 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). She will play for the Red, White and Blue again in 2012.
Iowa has made four Women's College World Series appearances (1995, 1996, 1997, 2001) and it has played in 16 NCAA Tournaments in school history. The 16 appearances are the second most in Big Ten history.
The Hawkeyes have won four Big Ten Conference regular season championships and two Big Ten Tournament titles.