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‘Newbie’ senior sparks softball offense

BY MIKE SLUSARK | FEBRUARY 18, 2009 7:50 AM

Sam Heinzman found herself in an oddly familiar situation when she arrived at Iowa.

“I was referred to as ‘the new people’ with the freshmen,” she said. “It kind of felt like I was reliving my freshman year all over again.”

She may have been new, but Heinzman was far from an inexperienced freshman. A senior transfer from South Dakota State, she had built herself an impressive résumé. She batted .329 as a junior center fielder for the Jackrabbits and led the team in hits, home runs, runs scored, stolen bases, and walks. She ranks third in career stolen bases and is tied for sixth in walks in the school’s history.

Batting primarily in the ninth spot for Iowa, she is leading the Hawkeyes (7-3) in batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

A coaching change made her consider transferring. South Dakota State released her from her scholarship so she was able to transfer to Iowa and play without sitting out a year. She is the first senior transfer in the 22-year tenure of Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins.

“She’s a natural lefty, and any left-handed slapper would tell you that it’d be wonderful to be three-dimensional,” Blevins said. “That’s what Sam is. Sam can swing away, so she’s got good power, she can drop a bunt, and she can slap.”

Heinzman displayed her power right away, going 2-for-3 with two solo home runs in her first game as a Hawkeye against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 6. A week later, she tallied two of Iowa’s seven hits and an RBI in a 5-2 loss to No. 3 Arizona State.

However, she didn’t have immediate success when she arrived at Iowa.

“Honestly, this has all kind of happened in the last few weeks,” Blevins said. “She’s been with us the entire year and gone through the struggles and adjustments that you go through when you’re in a new situation. What has started to happen here in just the last two weekends is she has started to fall in place more.”

An open competition in the outfield gave her a shot at playing time. So far this season, she has started all 10 games.

The national reputation of the business school and the opportunity to be on a nationally competitive team drew Heinzman to Iowa. Despite transferring as a senior, she said, she will be able to graduate with the addition of one summer course.

But the hardest part of her move to Iowa City wasn’t on the diamond or in the classroom. It was leaving those closest to her behind.

“I had made so many friends at South Dakota,” she said. “I didn’t know anybody here.”
That too, has changed. The Hawkeyes embraced her, and she feels comfortable in her new surroundings.

“These girls are awesome,” Heinzman said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Blevins believes her strong work ethic helped her transition into the program.

“Sam is a real good worker, and in that respect, she fits in real well with our team, because I think we have a really committed team,” the coach said. “Sam embraces that. Sam has always been a good worker, and that helps everybody approve of her, even in being in a new program in her senior year.”

This season, she will try to finish a college career that began in South Dakota State Blue and Yellow with a Big Ten championship for the Black and Gold. A “new” offensive weapon such as Heinzman certainly helps the team’s chances.


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