Softball to close out against Minnesota

BY MIKE SLUSARK | MAY 08, 2009 7:29 AM

Iowa head softball coach Gayle Blevins could move into sole possession of second place on the all-time Division-I wins list when the Hawkeyes close out the regular season with games against Minnesota at 6 p.m. today and 2 p.m. on Saturday in Iowa City.

With two wins against Wisconsin on Wednesday, Blevins, in her 22nd year with the Hawkeyes and 30th as a coach, tied former Florida State coach JoAnne Graf for second with 1,218 career victories. Current Fresno State head coach Margie Wright is the all-time victory leader with 1,340 wins.

The Golden Gophers (23-30, 6-12) are led by Division-I strikeout leader Briana Hassett. The senior pitcher has 401 strikeouts with a 1.83 ERA and a 22-23 record.

Blevins knows the Gopher ace will present challenges for her team.

“We had a tough series with them here last year and Hassett pitched really well against us,” Blevins said. “She’s pitched really well against a lot of good teams.”

The Hawkeyes (40-14, 11-7) are competing with Illinois (29-15, 12-7) and Purdue (27-18, 10-8) for fourth place in the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini have finished their season, and Purdue will face Indiana on Saturday. Iowa swept both Illinois and Purdue earlier in the season.

The importance of the upcoming games is not lost on the Hawkeyes.

“At this point, every game is a huge game for us, no matter who is on the other side,” Iowa senior shortstop Erin Riemersma said.

While Hassett has been exceptional this season for Minnesota, the Golden Gophers rank near the bottom of the conference in most offensive categories. Their team average of .223 is ninth in the Big Ten and they rank eighth in the conference in runs scored.

Minnesota sophomore first baseman Malisa Barnes is the only Golden Gopher hitting over .284 this season. Barnes has a .333 batting average and is sixth in the Big Ten in hits with 55 on the year.

Unlike their challengers, the Hawkeyes have had solid offensive production to go along with good pitching this season.

Iowa is second in the Big Ten in team average at .293 and second in runs scored. Hawkeye senior pitcher Brittany Weil is third in the conference with a 1.13 ERA and second in strikeouts with 308. Opposing batters are hitting just .132 against Weil this season, the lowest in the conference. On May 6, Weil got her fifth no-hitter of the season, which is also the fifth of her career. The five no-hitters are both a school single season and career record.

Hawkeye senior Colleen McGlaughlin tied Northwestern freshman Adrienne Monka for the conference lead in RBIs on May 6 with a solo walk-off home run in the ninth inning to defeat Wisconsin in the second game of a double-header. McGlaughlin, who is batting .367, is also second in the Big Ten with 61 hits. Iowa sophomore teammate Chelsea Carmody is fourth with 57.

Last season, the Hawkeyes split two games against Minnesota at Pearl Field. Iowa leads the all-time series record, 49-37.

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