Iowa softball’s Burns shines in first games

Freshman Kalena Burns had a successful weekend for Hawkeye softball and now leads the team in slugging percentage.


Hayden Froehlich

Iowa infielder Kalena Burns makes a hit at the Iowa softball game against Indian Hills at Pearl Field on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

During her first at-bat of her first official game, designated hitter Kalena Burns hit a three-run home run to left field in the first inning. Her efforts helped Iowa win its first game of the season over East Carolina, 6-5. The game was Iowa’s first of the 2020 Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Conway, South Carolina.

“My coaches have definitely prepared me for pressure situations,” Burns said. “So, when I got in the box, I knew that’s where I wanted to be, and I knew what I needed to do to help my team and score first.”

Burns didn’t hit another home run during the classic, but she still made a significant impact. Splitting time between designated hitter and first base, she started every game.

Her final stat line was 5-of-16 from the plate, one home run, two doubles, and five RBIs. She now has a .625 slugging percentage, good for first on the team. Her .313 batting average is sixth on the team. She also posted a perfect fielding percentage when she was at first base.

The Hawkeyes knew that they could get this performance from her.

“Kalena comes in from the Corona Angels out of California, and she’s got a very strong background,” head coach Renee Gillispie said. “She was one of their top hitters playing first base for them last year, and we knew what she was capable of, and it was nice to see that she was able to come in and get her first career home run this weekend.”

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Gillispie thinks that Burns has the potential to be the best freshman in the Big Ten.

At Centennial High School in Corona, California, Burns won multiple regional honors, was a four-year letter winner, a team captain, and a three-time scholar athlete nominee.

Junior pitcher Lauren Shaw was impressed with Burns’ performance in her first weekend, though she wasn’t surprised.

“As a freshman, you have a new perspective, you’re fresh, and you’re ready to go,” Shaw said. “You haven’t really been around the college atmosphere, and the fall was just a little taste of what she could do, and she shined in the fall. This weekend she just came out, she was stress free, and she was doing her game and she’s shining amazing. I can’t wait for the rest of the season to see how well she does.”

In the other games in South Carolina, Burns had her ups and downs. She struggled in her two games against Virginia Tech, going 0-for-5 from the plate with three strikeouts while walking once.

Her performance improved against other teams. She had three hits and a double against Coastal Carolina and a two RBI double against Campbell.

Now, she has the momentum to succeed and prove herself against big opponents in future games. The Hawkeyes face Boston College and Georgia Tech in Atlanta this weekend.

“I just got to keep putting in work, especially with my teammates,” Burns said. “They push me, and I push them, so it’s great to have their backs and for them to have my back.”

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