Hawkeye youth fill Carmody’s role


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When the Iowa softball team played without senior captain Chelsey Carmody this past weekend against Michigan State, it missed more than a starting shortstop and a .412 hitter; she is also one of the team’s most vocal leaders.

But despite missing Carmody — who was not present because of a death in her family — the Hawkeyes swept the close series from the Spartans, winning 5-3 on April 9 and 9-8 on Sunday.

“I think [missing Carmody] gave us a little bit more motivation to win, actually,” sophomore Johnnie Dowling said. “We knew that everyone had to come out and play her best game, and that’s what everyone did.”

Carmody’s absence left a large hole in the middle of the infield that the Hawkeyes filled with two freshmen. Regular third-baseman Michelle Zoeller shifted over to shortstop, and outfielder Brianna Luna was pulled in to play third.

Although Zoeller and Luna haven’t played in these spots this season, they’re not new positions to them; Zoeller came to Iowa as a shortstop and Luna as a third baseman.

“The challenge was that they were right next to each other in the field,” head coach Marla Looper said. “They haven’t been in those positions together all season, so it was a little challenging to stick them right in there in a pretty different situation.”

The freshmen “filled Carmody’s shoes pretty well,” Looper said. In the two games, Zoeller tallied seven putouts and three assists, and Luna racked up three putouts and five assists.

Not only did the Hawkeyes fill Carmody’s spot physically, but when they found themselves missing an important vocal team leader, several others stepped in to lead the team.

“I know that Chelsey is more of a vocal captain who talks a lot, and I tend to lead by example instead,” cocaptain Katie Keim said. “So during these two games I tried really hard to speak up a lot.

When we huddled, I just tried to make sure that everybody was feeling confident, trying to tell them that they can do it even though things were different.”

Because two freshmen were playing unfamiliar positions right next to Keim, the second baseman took extra care to make sure they didn’t have questions about plays during the game or between innings, she said.

Along with Keim’s shift in her role as a captain, several underclassmen took charge of holding the team together, both at the bat and in the huddle.

Sophomore Ashley Akers and Dowling spoke up with encouragement and cheers more than usual, Looper said, as well as stepping into the batters box and swinging the bat in a Carmody-like fashion. Akers went 4-for-8 and Dowling 4-for-7 in the two games.

“Ashley Akers stepped up into a real big role in that 2-hole spot coming from the 9th spot,” Looper said. “She came into this weekend without having a ton of success, and she did a phenomenal job for us physically and on top of that, shared a lot verbally. We had some youth stepping into that leadership role, and they took it on really well.”

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