Softball: Weil looks for K record

BY MIKE SLUSARK | APRIL 03, 2009 7:35 AM

Iowa senior pitcher Brittany Weil will likely break the school strikeout record this weekend against Penn State.

The Garden Grove, Calif., native has 943 strikeouts in her career, just three Ks behind former Hawkeye Lisa Birocci, who struck out 946 in her time with Iowa.

The Hawkeyes (29-7, 3-1) meet the Nittany Lions (9-18. 0-6) at 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on April 5 at Pearl Field.

Although Penn State is last in the Big Ten and has not beaten the Hawkeyes since 2006, Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins is not taking the Nittany Lions lightly.

“They’re a team that runs a little bit more, uses a bit more of the short game, but they also have power hitters,” she said. “They matched up with Illinois last weekend, and it was a 15-13 slugfest, so obviously, they can put up runs in a hurry.”

If Penn State faces Weil this weekend, the Nittany Lions may have a tough time making the game a slugfest. In addition to 200 strikeouts this season, Weil has a 1.10 ERA, and opposing batters are only hitting .131 against her. She’s also coming off the first perfect game of her career in a 1-0 victory against Illinois Wednesday night.

These numbers don’t bode well for a Penn State team that ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten with a .255 team batting average.

Another area the Nittany Lions have struggled this year is preventing stolen bases, something Iowa may look to exploit this weekend.

Opposing runners have successfully stolen 55 bases against Penn State this year, the most in the Big Ten and 18 more than the second highest team, Wisconsin. Teams facing the Nittany Lions have a .902 success rate stealing bases this year, which is also the highest in the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten in steal attempts with 62 and are second in successful steals with 49.
“We continue to make sure that that’s part of our game because that’s how we manufacture a couple runs,” Blevins said. “If we can get people in scoring position and get a quality at-bat, then we’ve got a run.”

Both teams are coming off of Big Ten double-headers on April 1.

The Nittany Lions were swept by No. 10 Michigan, 9-1 and 11-3. Penn State freshman pitcher Lisa Akamine struck 11 batters total through both games and also was 2-for-3 with an RBI from the plate in the second game.

Iowa swept Illinois 1-0 and 9-1 in Iowa City on Wednesday. Freshman catcher Liz Watkins’ walk-off home run guaranteed the win for the Hawkeyes in Weil’s perfect game. Watkins then went yard again in the first inning of the second game with a three-run shot to center field that gave Iowa an early 3-0 lead.

Amanda Zust came on in relief to seal the victory for Iowa.

Despite Penn State’s struggles, Iowa players are approaching the Big Ten opponent the way they would any other team.

“We try to approach every team the same,” Watkins said. “We always want to bring Iowa softball to the field.”

This weekend, Weil and Iowa softball are just four strikeouts away from a new milestone on Pearl Field.

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