Softball to play eight during spring break

BY IAN MARTIN | MARCH 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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In their 1988 hit “I’m Gonna Be,” the members of the Proclaimers sing they would have walked 500 miles, then 500 miles more, just to show up at your door.

The Iowa softball team can beat that. The Hawkeyes will have traveled more than 10,000 miles during their first 25 games of the year before returning home from their upcoming spring-break trip to the Florida Atlantic University’s Parent’s Weekend Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla.

Because of the Midwest’s weather, the team does not have a scheduled home game until a March 20 double-header against South Dakota.

Going away to tournaments and coming back to campus every week has been taxing for the club, which has an 8-9 record. But Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said the routine is something the squad expects at the beginning of every year.

“It’s our reality whether we like it or not,” she said. “We were at least fortunate enough to have a bus trip [to Minneapolis]. A lot of teams don’t even have that.”

The Hawkeyes, though, have benefited from the improving weather in Iowa City. The team held its first outdoor practices this week on Pearl Field, although, the outfield grass was soggy from the melted snow.

“It’s a big lift,” Blevins said. “It gives [the players] a lot of reps we haven’t had. To give them that opportunity to [practice outside] starts to even out the playing field.”

And any solutions would likely be welcome for Iowa. The team has lost seven of its last nine games, although only one loss was by more than three runs. It appears the opponents in this weekend’s tournament and in the games next week will favor the Hawkeyes on paper. No team is ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball top 25 poll.

On the slate are mid-major programs Charleston Southern, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville, and three games — including a double-header March 18 — against Florida Atlantic. The team will also face Syracuse, as well as Virginia Tech.

Although Iowa is scheduled to play eight games in just seven days, team members said it does not faze them to see so many different jerseys.

“It’s definitely one game at a time for us,” said outfielder Jenny Schuelke, who noted that scouting reports may highlight a power opponent more than others. “There’s usually a strong team [at a tournament], and we’ll focus on it.”

Iowa may be most excited to square off against the 7-12 Hokies, because the Hawkeyes are 5-0 against Virginia Tech in the all-time series. But the two teams have not met since 2005.

Earlier in the week, Blevins said she would like to see a little more production from the pitching staff. First baseman and middle reliever Katie Brown could see action with the large number of games coming. But earlier in the year, she said that if the team was succeeding, she, hopefully, would not have to go to the circle.

A month ago, Brown said she was hoping not to pitch often, “because that means the other two [pitchers] are doing their job.”

“Hopefully, I don’t need to start because that means something’s not going well.”

Even if the Iowa pitching staff could manage an 8-0 record in Florida over the academic break, the team is anticipating its return to Iowa City for the Hawkeyes’ first home games of the year.

“We are pumped to have people come to Pearl Field,” Schuelke said. “We always have a strong turnout for the first few games.”

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