Hawks cheer as Aralee Bogar makes last of many home runs in a row at the Pearl Field Hawkeye Softball complex on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Hawkeyes defeated Kirkwood Community College 5-3. (Ashley Morris/The Daily Iowan)

Speed fuels Iowa softball

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In one of the most important facets of the game, Iowa is prepared to excel.

By Anna Kayser

anna-kayser@uiowa.edu

Iowa softball’s newfound speed on the base paths has been showcased in the beginning of the fall season.

With practice and young players gaining game experience, base running is expected to be a major factor in the upcoming season.

Last season, the Hawkeyes had 37 stolen bases in 57 attempts. Senior outfielder Cheyenne Pratt ended last season with 9 stolen bases, second most for the team.

Pratt hustled down the first-base line whenever she put the ball in play against Kirkwood, giving her a number of infield hits.

“Speed kills,” head coach Marla Looper said. “It can wreak some havoc on the defense, it makes them hurry. We talk about in our game, be quick but don’t hurry, and when you put a ball in play and you can run that fast, people start to hurry. When you hurry, mistakes happen.”

The key to speed on the base paths will be the freshmen.

First-year Hawkeye Aralee Bogar showcased her speed at Iowa’s 5-3 win over Kirkwood on Sept. 22. On a base-hit down the left field line, Bogar circled the bases for a 3-run, inside-the-park home run.

“I think [speed] is a big part of [my game],” Bogar said. “It’s one of the things that I’m valuable for the team, so just using it whenever I can, and obviously, it worked really well in that situation. I’m just reading the defense and seeing how my speed can work in whatever situation.”

As a high-school sophomore, Bogar racked up 22 stolen bases. Her junior year, she broke her high-school record for stolen bases in a season with 33.

Senior Allie Wood said she thinks Bogar is probably the fastest on the team. Coming in behind her are Pratt and sophomores Alex Rath and Havyn Monteer.

Wood is one of the team’s power hitters, and she hit a solo home run to put Iowa on the board against Kirkwood.

RELATED: Softball’s bats, pitching, too much for Kirkwood

Looper said the combination of speed on the bases with a couple power hitters could be the key to offensive domination.

“I feel us scoring a lot of runs this year because of that,” she said.

Last season, 13 out of the Hawkeyes’ 32 losses came by only 1 or 2 runs.

This season, speed could act as a game-changer.

“I think we’ll have more stolen bases,” Wood said. “I think we lost a lot of games by 1 run last year, so I think having that speed will benefit us to have that extra base, getting us those extra runs in.”

However, speed isn’t the only determinant on the base paths.

Being smart on the bases and knowing how to read the pitcher and defense is also a skill that factors into stolen bases and stretching a single into a double.

“Sarah Kurtz saw a changeup going in the dirt, she took off, stole second, base, and didn’t hesitate,” Looper said. “In the past, we’ve hesitated a little bit. We’ve been working every day about being aggressive, being on the attack, being in an affirmative mindset, and we’re starting to see that pay off.”

Iowa practices some facet of base running every day in practice, a testament to how critical it can be in games.

The fall exhibition games are an outlet to make mistakes and learn from them without being the difference in a 1-run ballgame.

Senior Angela Schmiederer aggressively went to third on a base hit and was thrown out. Despite the mistakes in her base running, the Iowa coaching staff would take that aggressiveness over anything.

“When you’re hesitant and you don’t go, we don’t know what can happen,” Looper said. “They still have to play catch and put an out on you. So, we practice that every day, we’re working on, again, on the affirmative side, and if it doesn’t work out for us, it doesn’t work out for us, but if you never go, you never know.”

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