Brittany Weil has spent the better part of the last three years accumulating staggering numbers pitching for the Iowa softball team. On Feb. 13, it was what the senior didn’t accumulate that stood out.
For the first time in her storied collegiate career, Weil recorded a no-hitter — and it could not have come at a better time for the Hawkeyes.
Locked in a pitchers’ duel, the Garden Grove, Calif., product pitched a perfect game for seven and a third innings and collected 17 strikeouts before brushing Kent State’s Jessica Blanton in extra innings — preventing a perfect game by the slimmest of margins. Weil struck out the last two batters in the inning, and Sam Heinzman’s walk-off double did the rest, driving home Erin Riemersma for Iowa’s winning run.
“Britt is a very confident pitcher on the mound,” Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said. “Pitchers need poise, skill, and determination — she brings all of that.”
Weil is certainly a daunting figure on the mound, and Iowa’s intimidation factor is only increased by the presence of junior pitcher Amanda Zust. Both pitchers posted ERAs under 1.30 a year ago, combining for 39 complete games, 14 shutouts, and 416 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, the duo entered the 2009 season regarded as one of the most potent one-two punches in the country.
Blevins is quick to acknowledge the benefits that come with having two upper-tier pitchers.
Blevins also noted the importance of a catcher in the day-to-day performance of a pitcher. Fittingly, another duo has split the duties behind the plate this season — sophomore Lindsey Major and freshman Liz Watkins. Major and Watkins have started four and six games behind the plate, respectively and through 10 games, the pair has allowed just one passed ball and have maintained a perfect fielding percentage. The most important aspect they bring to each game, however, doesn’t show up in the stat book — the ability to control the direction of a game and help their pitchers.
“The four of us have connected this year,” Weil said. “This battery realizes that we can all make each other look good, and those two [Major and Watkins] have come a long way.”
With each pitch, she inches closer to breaking nearly every major career record for pitchers at Iowa. After pitching five complete games so far this season, she sits just 20 shy of the career mark of 109 complete games set by Karen Jackson in 1994. Weil sits 39 games short of the career record for game appearances and just 137 innings away from the innings pitched record. With 148 more strikeouts, Weil will become the most prolific strikeout artist in Iowa history. She’s also only 22 wins away from becoming the first pitcher in school history to reach the 100-win plateau and eclipsing Lisa Birocci’s record of 99 wins, set in 2005.
“I just hope we can look back after this season and say my best was good enough and we didn’t leave anything out on the field,” Weil said.
Pitching coach Shane Bouman said he was excited about Weil, but he insists a no-hitter has been and will remain secondary to winning.
“[Brittany and I] came to Iowa to go the College World Series,” Bouman said. “So, if we need a no-hitter to win, that’s what we want. Big situations are nothing new to Brittany.”