Frosh shortstop celebrates speed

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Frosh shortstop celebrates speed

Iowa infielder Lea Thompson swings during the Iowa-Illinois softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 7-4. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

Iowa infielder Lea Thompson swings during the Iowa-Illinois softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 7-4. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

Lily Smith

Iowa infielder Lea Thompson swings during the Iowa-Illinois softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 7-4. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

Lily Smith

Lily Smith

Iowa infielder Lea Thompson swings during the Iowa-Illinois softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 7-4. (The Daily Iowan/Lily Smith)

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By Jacob Miller 

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Freshman Lea Thompson, a native of Indiana, will return home this weekend.

Thompson, Iowa’s starting shortstop, will be in the middle of the field and in the middle of the Hawkeye lineup when they take on Purdue this weekend in West Lafayette.Going home means getting to play in front of friends and family, who don’t get to see her play all that much, considering it’s a five-and-a-half hour drive between her home of Indianapolis and Iowa City.

“It means a lot just the fact that I get to go back to my home state and be in front of my family and friends, because a lot of them don’t get to see me play and are going to be there, like my grandparents,” Thompson said. “It means a lot to hopefully get a chance to play in front of them.”

Despite her 5-1 height, Thompson has emerged as one of the top players for the Hawkeyes. She leads the team in batting average at .275. She has also gotten on base in 10-consecutive games.

“She doesn’t have to hit balls to the fence, she just has to put the ball in play and get on base because of her speed,” head coach Marla Looper said. “When she gained a little more confidence about just touching the ball and go, she makes it look easy, but we all know it’s not easy when you force the defense to have to play and get rid of a ball real quick because you’ve got good speed.”

One of the most underrated, but most important aspects of her game is her speed and her ability to get on base. Thompson leads the team in on-base percentage at .408. Instead of always swinging for the fences, she has disciplined herself to having quality at bats and getting on base.

“I have been sticking to what I know, especially offensively, because that is where I have been the most successful,” Thompson said. “I just need to stick to what I know how to do and what coach has been pushing us to do.”

Thompson is not only a threat at the plate, she is also solid on defense. She did not begin the season as the starting shortstop, but she eventually earned the spot and has not looked back.

“She asks a lot of questions,” freshman Taylor MaKowsky said. “I think that has helped her a lot because she’ll sit and observe when she is not practicing and is always asking questions and watching how other people play.”

As a freshman, Thompson is constantly learning from the upperclassmen and always looking for ways to get better. For her defensive game, fellow infielder Claire Fritsch has been her source for advice.

Even though Thompson is playing some of her best softball so far this season, she wants find ways that she can improve her game.

“You got to keep moving forward, and once she started absorbing it that way, it’s allowed her to continue to grow,” Looper said. “There are still plenty of things that she can get better at, and continue to work on, and become more natural at, but I think she believes that she can do those things more instead of doubting or questioning herself.”

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