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Zust’s ‘team first’ attitude leads to softball success

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 13, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa softball pitcher Amanda Zust believes what she says.

During postgame interviews, the senior hurler gives credit to her defense, saying she was just giving her teammates an opportunity to win.

She speaks in concise sentences and uses such words as, “confidence,” and “consistency,” all in an effort to make “quality” pitches.

It’s become essential in replacing Brittany Weil, one of the greatest pitchers in Iowa history, who holds school records for career strikeouts (1,083), complete games (110), and no-hitters (five) among others.

Zust played with Weil for three years. From her, Zust said, she learned not only fundamentals but absorbed uncountable pieces of advice from the Iowa great.

“One of the most important things I learned from [Brittany] was her work ethic,” Zust said. “She came into practice each day working on something different.”

Coaches and teammates, who call the Hawkeye ace “Zusty,” agree it’s this intangible that have provided the biggest boost to Zust’s repertoire during her collegiate career.

“She leads just by her work ethic,” said pitching coach Shane Bouman, who has been with the team for three years. “Anything we do conditioning-wise … she’s the one who never has a problem with that.”

And it seems that work ethic is paying off for the Des Moines native. Zust has pitched one no-hitter this season, an 8-0 victory over South Dakota in the Hawkeyes’ home-opener.

She has a 2.28 era and a 11-6 record, with 75 strikeouts in 135.0 innings pitched.

Yet for Zust and her teammates, only the “W” matters when the final out is tallied. And her encouragement is part of what sets up a team philosophy of responsibility.

While the coaches preach against mistakes, the biggest thing the Hawkeyes instill is believing someone will make the next play.

“Zust is amazing for that,” freshman pitcher Chelsea Lyon said. “If one of the fielders makes a mistake, she’ll turn around and say, ‘I have you on the next pitch.’ ”

Outside the diamond, the perception of the team’s No. 1 pitcher doesn’t change.

Lyon said Zust, along with other players, invited all their new teammates over for dinner as soon as the group arrived on campus and made the freshmen and transfers feel at ease about their new team.

This is just the nature of Iowa’s top hurler and her fellow seniors.

“She seemed to reach out to all the freshmen as soon as they got here,” said Lyon, and Zust also helped her sort out how to manage practices and classes when the first semester seemed to overwhelm her.

And as usual, Zust plays off a noteworthy trait as something she sees as part of a mentoring process — something that is a part of the game, something necessary to the overall success of the Hawkeyes.

“That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year,” Zust said. “All of us upperclassmen took it upon ourselves with so many new people to make it that we are close as a team. Your relationship off the field carries on the field.”

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