Hawkeye softball looks ahead


Gayle Blevins has coached in numerous NCAA Tournaments. Compared with past appearances, the Iowa softball team did not meet its expectations.

The Hawkeyes ended their 2009 season by being eliminated in the Atlanta Regional by Boston and Auburn in the double-elimination tournament. In both games, the Hawkeyes’ inconsistent hitting came back to haunt them.

“It wasn’t, by far, our best performance,” Blevins said. “But it really became a starting point for the future season.”

The tournament ousting at the hands of the Boston Terriers spelled the end for an impressive senior class that included record-setting pitcher Brittany Weil and Colleen McGlaughlin, who led the Hawkeyes in home runs this past season.

“They did a lot of good things for us,” Blevins said. “They had great senior campaigns. We wanted to provide it for them, to go further.”

Inconsistency became the theme for much of the 2009 season, including splitting games against Ohio State yet being swept by a weaker Penn State squad the following week.

The Hawkeyes, who finished fourth in the Big Ten behind Northwestern, Ohio State, and conference champion Michigan, rode into the tournament with a strong, error-free defense and dominant pitching by Amanda Zust and Weil, who both boasted ERAs under two runs.

Weil leaves Iowa as one of 16 All-Americans in program history. She was voted team MVP all four years, and she finished the 2009 season with almost 250 innings and 27 complete games while ringing up 340 strikeouts and 26 wins. She was also only the eighth player at Iowa to record 1,000 career strikeouts. She pitched a perfect game on April 1 against the Illinois Fighting Illini, only receiving one run in support.

“When you think about winning championships, it comes down to pitching and defense,” Blevins said. “When you think about what [Weil] has done for this team, she gave us a chance to win every time she stepped out onto the field, no matter whom we were playing.”

As the Hawkeyes look ahead to 2010, they will return a dangerous power-hitting tandem in sophomore-to-be Liz Watkins and senior-to-be Katie Brown, who combined for 16 home runs in 2009. Along with returning ace pitcher Amanda Zust and other key players such as Lindsey Digmann and Chelsey Carmody, Iowa has a solid future.

“We have a great core of girls returning next year,” Brown said. “We are going to come up with goals. Conditioning, connecting more with each other.”

One goal in particular was given great emphasis by Blevins.

“We need to get our team into better shape,” she said. “We need to get them stronger, to train together day in and day out. More commitment to what we are trying to accomplish.”

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