Lyon hopes to fill void in softball pitching staff

BY MITCH SMITH | MARCH 03, 2010 7:30 AM

Ryan Miller/The Daily Iowan
Iowa freshman Chelsea Lyon takes a breather while pitching during practice on Tuesday inside the Bubble.
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Replacing Brittany Weil in the Iowa pitcher’s circle appears as difficult as finding a successor for Michael Jordan.

Despite the tough task, someone had to take on the challenge.

Three pitchers have been deployed to duplicate Weil’s 99 wins, 110 complete games, and 1,083 strikeouts — all tops in Iowa softball history. Freshman Chelsea Lyon is one of those three.

Iowa pitching coach Shane Bouman said she sees Weil as an inspiration and aspiration for Lyon.

“I think the biggest thing is you’re not going to replace a Brittany Weil,” Bouman said. “Here’s a girl who may have been the best pitcher Iowa’s ever had. But I think Chelsea Lyon came here because of what Brittany was able to do. She wants an opportunity to play at the highest level possible and compete at that level.”

So far, Lyon’s season has been a mix of strong outings and growing pains. But the Broken Arrow, Okla., native has shown some potential for the Hawkeyes. She has a 3-5 record through the first three weeks of the season.

Transitioning to the college game proved to be a different task for Oklahoma’s former Gatorade Player of the Year.

Besides Iowa City being much colder than her home state, Lyon said, she’s had to acclimate to the time management needed to be successful in the classroom and adjust to the changes that have been made in her pitching motion since joining the Hawkeyes last fall.

“At first, it was overwhelming,” she said. “I’ve gotten a hold of it now. The girls were great helping me along, and the coaches were, as well. College softball is more so like a job. You have to absolutely love it and be willing to do anything for it.”

Lyon began her Hawkeye career in Minneapolis on Feb. 12, making her college début against Western Illinois. Lyon tossed six innings of five-hit ball in a 2-1 win over the Leathernecks in the Metrodome Tournament and followed up that performance with a win in relief against Drake.

One of her worst starts came last weekend against Maryland. Seven Terrapins crossed home plate during her two-thirds of an inning on Feb. 26.

The Hawkeyes lost the game 11-1, but Lyon roared back the following day against North Carolina State. Lyon retired 17-consecutive Wolfpack hitters and allowed three hits en route to her first career complete game victory.

The 3-1 win was Iowa’s lone victory in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga.

While starting immediately was initially overwhelming for Lyon, it’s something Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins expects from her underclassmen.

“We always tell our young kids that they have a chance to contribute right away as freshmen,” she said. “She knew that. It just puts a greater sense of urgency on your development and what you do in your freshman year.”

As the season progresses, Lyon said, she hopes to learn how to pitch better down in the strike zone. She is trying to grasp the curve ball and the drop ball.

“Every game, she’s learning,” Bouman said. “She’s just got to improve every day in practice. The more comfortable she gets, the better she’s going to get. She’s got a lot of ability; now, it’s just a matter of how hard she’s willing to work to get to that point.”

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