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Iowa softball's Blank hurt but not out

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | APRIL 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Megan Blank slid into second base after smacking an RBI double on April 28. But the freshman collided with Indiana's shortstop and lay motionless and face-down on the dirt for several minutes.

Blank said she doesn't know exactly what happened because she had her eyes closed, but she thinks she might have been hit in the face with the throw because she can see the laces of the ball in the bruise on her swollen upper lip.

The coaching and athletics training staff surrounded the downed player, and Blank eventually emerged from the huddle. She slowly walked off the field, holding her face.

Blank couldn't return to the game for the final two defensive innings. An infield scramble occurred; Katie Keim moved from first to shortstop, Melanie Gladden from third to first, and Michelle Zoeller from the designated player slot to third.

But the injured player was back on Sunday to finish the series against the Hoosiers. The collision knocked some of Blank's teeth loose and caused heavy swelling around her mouth, but she went 2-for-3, scoring 3 runs and delivering an RBI. The freshman reached base all three times she came up to bat.

"One thing about Megan is that she goes with the flow; she's easy-going," assistant coach Stacy May-Johnson said. "She got the OK to play from the doctors and everything taken care of at the hospital last night, so she got out here and played really, really well today."

The only sign that Blank was injured during Sunday's game was the facemask added to her batting helmet. Head coach Marla Looper said they tried to find a protective mask she could wear during defense, too, but every device they tried put too much pressure on her face and caused pain.

Blank said she was only worried about being timid in the field, but she tallied a putout and an assist in five innings of play. She didn't register any errors.

"I was going to try to play no matter what, but it was more a matter of hoping that I wouldn't be too skittish if a ball would come my way," Blank said. "But I wasn't too nervous about that today once I got out there, so I played just like always."

Looper said she was nervous to put Blank back in the lineup unless she was sure the shortstop was feeling OK. The head coach watched her during warmups on Sunday, though, and was quickly convinced Blank was more than ready to return to the diamond.

"We weren't going to throw her in a situation where she was apprehensive or still in too much pain, because it hurts the team — and the player — when you put someone in that situation," Looper said. "Watching her through warmups and batting practice, she was typical Megan. We knew she's our girl, and she was going to go in that spot."

Blank smashed an RBI double in the first inning to bring in the first run, then trotted around the bases to score the second on a Keim homer. The freshman then reached on an error in the third inning and made her way around the bases off a walk-single combination from Keim and Liz Watkins.

Blank also displayed her baserunning skills in the fourth inning, when she slapped a shot to the left side of the infield and beat the throw at first. She advanced to third on two more singles from Keim and Watkins before beating a throw at home to score the game's ninth run, risking yet another collision.

"I wouldn't expect anything less from Megan," Watkins said. "It says a lot about her character and who she is a person. She's not going to give up even if her teeth get knocked out, she's going to stand right back up and put a fight out."

Follow DI softball reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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