Commentary: Freshman Watkins sparks Hawkeye softball


Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

In the spirit of March Madness on Wednesday night, Iowa freshman catcher Liz Watkins performed like one of Dick Vitale’s “diaper dandies” with two home runs in a home double-header against Illinois.

She sealed the win in Brittany Weil’s perfect game with the first walk-off home run of her career, a solo line-drive just over the right field wall in the first game.

“I’m just glad I could do it for the team,” she said. “I had a lot of teammates helping me out with that, letting me know where pitch locations were.”

Her first home run may have snuck over the wall but, the second, a three-run bomb in the first inning of the second game, looked as though it could have landed in traffic on Highway 6.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Watkins said. “It felt awesome coming off the bat.”

She has performed above expectations for a freshman all season.

She has started 31 games for the Hawkeyes, is batting .351 on the season, leads the team in home runs with six, and is second on the team in RBIs with 28.

Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said Watkins is the player this year whose development has most pleasantly surprised her.

“When I think about where she was when we started work in the fall and where she is now, it’s just not even the same,” the coach said. “It’s just beyond what you can imagine.”

She also complimented Watkins’ leadership at catcher as a freshman.

“Some people just have that quality instinctively,” Blevins said. “She is a natural leader.”

Although the switch from high-school to college softball has been a lot of work, Watkins said, her teammates have aided her.

“This team has really helped me,” Watkins said. “A lot of the women have taken me under their arms and helped me transition in to playing Big Ten softball. I owe it all to them.”

Her toughest challenge has been learning to catch college pitching.

“Their pitches move so much,” Watkins said. “They actually make it easy for me, though, because their balls usually go right where we want them.”

She has caught some pretty pitching this season — having been behind the plate for three no-hitters and a perfect game so far.

Regardless of age and experience level, she has always been a leader on the diamond. As a freshman at Rockridge High School in Taylor Ridge, Ill., Watkins led her team to an Illinois state championship and won co-MVP honors of the tournament. She was a four-time all-conference selection and was named to six all-state softball teams throughout her high-school career.

She was also a multi-sport star in high school, graduating with the school volleyball record in blocks and three basketball school records. Academically, she was her class valedictorian.

Despite all her prep success, she didn’t think she would receive so much playing time as a freshman.

“I was coming in to work my butt off and do anything the team has asked of me,” Watkins said. “I hope I’ve done that.”

If her two-home-run performance against Illinois is any answer, it looks like so far, so good.

Facebook Comments