Freshman first baseman gains valuable experience

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sunday marked the ninth game that freshman Kaitlyn Mullarkey has started at first base this season.

When Big Ten play began a few weeks ago, the spot at first base was a little cloudy. Mullarky and fellow freshman Alyssa Navarro split time during the nonconference portion of the schedule. And while Navarro has gathered a few starts since then, it looks as if Mullarkey has taken the position, at least for now.

The series against No 23. Northwestern provided Mullarkey with much needed experience. After a rough first two games, Iowa finally got the best of the Wildcats with a walk-off win in her first home series of her career.

“I think it’s really cool to be able to get a chance to play, being a walk-on. Clearly I had to work my way to get there, but I’m taking the chances I’m getting and hopefully using them well. I think it’s awesome that I’m even getting a chance to play,” Mullarkey said.

Being thrown into the heat of Big Ten play says something about what the coaches think about her. Her defense has been outstanding, posting a 1.000 fielding percentage in her nine games at first. That is something that is desperately needed for Iowa, which has committed 48 errors, second most in the Big Ten behind Indiana.

But what hasn’t been as consistent is her hitting, which needs a boost. She is batting .238 in 21 at-bats.

“My goals are just to improve any way I can,” Mullarkey said. “I know right now I’m struggling with my offense, so any way I can get on base is what I want to do for the team.”

The Park Ridge, Ill., native is also looking to make up for lost time that many of here peers didn’t have to worry about during their prep careers. While most of the players come from California and Texas, where the weather allows them to play year round, ¬†Mullarkey has to deal with the brutal Chicago winters.

“The only big difference is that they can play year round, but I’m used to the weather we get here in Iowa,” Mullarkey said.

Today’s games against Minnesota is a battle of two different styles of play. Minnesota is first in the Big Ten with 40 home runs, and Iowa is last with 9. Keeping the Gophers’ power at bay will be the biggest challenge for the Black and Gold.

“Our challenge is to eliminate anything that is belt high and over the plate,” head coach Marla Looper said. “Use the corners of the plate and use the top and bottom of the zone to make them fish for those pitches that they can drive out as well as keep the ball on the ground. When we do that, we have a lot more success.”

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