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Zoeller plays a part in Iowa softball win-streak

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa softball team will travel to Macomb, Ill., to take on Western Illinois (9-14) today. The Hawkeyes (18-12) are carrying a four-game win streak after completing sweeps of South Dakota on March 20 and Ohio State in their Big Ten opener on Sunday.

Iowa scored a total of 12 runs in two games against the Buckeyes, four of which were driven in by third-baseman Michelle Zoeller.

Zoeller is batting .224 with 13 RBIs, which puts her in the middle of the Hawkeyes’ lineup and disguises her status as a walk-on freshman.

“I think Michelle has earned her right to be just like all of us,” senior captain Chelsey Carmody said. “She came in a little later than us, but she busted her butt to get in the starting lineup and stay there.”

When she came to Iowa from Mequon, Wis., Zoeller didn’t plan on trying out for the team, but after randomly meeting her now teammates Jordan Goschie and Nikki Gentile, she decided to look into playing Iowa softball.

“We had an open tryout and thankfully, Michelle saw the ad in the paper and came out,” head coach Marla Looper said. “We saw a lot of hustle in her and a little bit of grit. She took some balls to the chin and the chest but just kept going on, and those are things we look for — the intangibles that you just can’t teach someone.”

About four months after her tryout, Zoeller started in her first game against Florida Gulf Coast at the Moe’s Blue and Green Invitational in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 25.

In that first game, Zoeller went 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs, and she has started at third base ever since. But she didn’t get the spot without putting in the work.

“I really never even expected to get much playing time, but I knew that if I wanted to do anything, I would have to work really hard,” Zoeller said. “That means getting extra [swings in the batting cage] before practice, and pushing hard in conditioning, and trying really hard to just adjust to college softball.”

Not only did Zoeller have to learn to adjust to the harder workouts, she had to adjust to a new position. She played shortstop and second base all through high school, but entered the Hawkeye lineup at third base.

From her position at shortstop, Carmody trusts Zoeller at third even though she’s still getting used to the new space where the action is a lot closer to home plate and quicker off the bat.

“Anytime you play right next to somebody in this game, you have to be able to depend on each other,” Carmody said. “Michelle can definitely snag a lot of balls that a lot of people couldn’t. She’s good in the 5-6 hole [the gap between shortstop and third base] and definitely comes across the field and makes those tough plays.”

Against Western Illinois today, head coach Marla Looper hopes that Zoeller can keep her consistency up at third base and in the batter’s box.

“I ask that she reacts to the ball, that she just gets her job done,” Looper said. “It’s gravy on the mashed potatoes if she makes some spectacular play or gets the game-winning hit. She can do her job well right now, and as she continues to improve, our expectations for her are changing as she shows us what she can really do.”


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