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Softball heads south for tourney

BY MITCH SMITH | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa softball team wants to turn heads this weekend.

After staying close to No. 5 Arizona State on Feb. 20 in what ended up as a 7-4 loss, the Hawkeyes (6-3) know they can compete with the best in the nation.

They’ll have another opportunity to garner national attention today during the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga.

A difficult slate awaits the Hawkeyes, including No. 9 Alabama, No. 11 Georgia Tech, and an Arkansas team that defeated Iowa on Feb. 12. The Crimson Tide lost only 11 games in 2009 en route to a College World Series birth.

Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins understands the weekend won’t be easy, but she said her squad is prepared for the challenge.

“When you go to the Leadoff Classic, it’s always a tough schedule,” she said. “Our team knows that, but that’s why we’re going there. We want to have a chance to match up with some of the very finest teams that we’ll need to match up well with if we plan on having a postseason opportunity for ourselves.”

Success at the plate and scoring runs will be key for the Hawkeyes. Starting at the top of the order, senior Lindsey Digmann and junior Chelsey Carmody hope to continue their early season hot streaks in the batters box.

After seeing Carmody earn all-tournament honors at the Metrodome Tournament, Blevins decided to switch Digmann to the lead-off spot and put Carmody in the 3-hole last weekend in Tempe, Ariz.

The move has “worked out great,” Blevins said.

The two are tied for the team lead in hits with 13, which also ties for fourth in the Big Ten.

Carmody, one of three cocaptains this season, leads the team in nearly every offensive category. Her four home runs this season is a vast turnaround — the second baseman had only two career home runs entering the season.

“She’s just real focused on being a great leader for us,” Blevins said. “She’s not up there trying to hit home runs. If you watch her coming out of the box, she’s not coming out like a typical home-run hitter. She’s busting down the line.”

Carmody followed up her strong weekend in Minnesota by going 7-for-14 at the Littlewood Classic on Feb. 18-20.

She attributes a new, relaxed approach at the plate combined with a positive aura surrounding the team to fueling her success.

Whatever’s feeding her, the lead-off hitter Digmann hopes it continues.

“I get excited,” Digmann said. “I’m like, ‘Chelsey, you keep hitting that ball. I don’t have to run as fast around the bases.’ Whatever she’s eating before games, I hope she keeps eating it, because it’s awesome.”

Digmann is also thrilled about her own strong start after a thumb injury kept her out of 24 games in 2009, and she managed only 25 hits in 79 at-bats.

The Marion native is more than halfway to reaching those stats in only nine games. Embracing the lead-off role, Digmann leads the team in runs scored.

“Seeing her lead off like that really feeds the team a lot of energy,” Carmody said.

Now, all that’s left for the pair having the fantastic start translate into consistent results in the future. Digmann said it’s all about the trusting her abilities.

“I’m just going to keep the same mentality,” she said. “Have confidence up there knowing that I can hit off of any pitcher.”


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