In the first game of the second day of the 2005 Big Ten Softball Tournament, the third-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes will meet the sixth seeded Penn State Nittany Lions. The Hawks took both meetings during the regular season, the first 3-1 and the second 5-1. The games were dominated by the pitching of Iowa's two All-Conference hurlers. Second-teamer Lisa Birocci threw the first game and scattered six hits without giving up a single earned run. Third-team member, Ali Arnold pitched the second game and allowed only a single run on four hits.
The pitchers are two of the four Hawkeyes named to All-Conference teams this season while Penn State has two honorees.
Birocci's 1.14 ERA is the third best of regular starting pitchers, while she earned a conference best 26 wins. Birocci is third in the league in strikeouts with 238 in 226.2 innings pitched. She has thrown complete games in 25 of the 30 games in which she has started, which is the most in the Big Ten. Twelve of the seniors' complete games have been shutouts.
Arnold has had a successful junior year as well. With an ERA of 1.53 that ranks in the league's top 10, Arnold is fifth in the conference with 20 wins. Half of her 26 games started have been complete game efforts with 196 strikeouts, the sixth most in the Big Ten.
First team All-Big Ten honoree Mindy Heidgerken and second teamer Kylie Murray have been two of the most productive Hawks this year. Murray leads the team with a .359 batting average and is second on the team in RBI with 39. Heidgerken's three triples are a team high and her speed has aided her on the base paths with 21 steals on 22 attempts.
Freshman Emily Nichols broke the school's single season homerun record this year and finished the regular slate with 16. Playing both catcher and first base, Nichols has batted .315 with a team-best .711 slugging percentage.
Penn State's offense has been led by freshman Ashley Esparza this season. Her .406 batting average is fourth in the Big Ten among regular starters. Esparza's on-base percentage of .487 is in the league's top-five.
Fellow freshman Jen Acunto has shared in the first-year success of her teammate in Happy Valley this season. Batting .361, Acunto leads the team with 108 total bases and leads the team with nine homeruns. Her slugging percentage of .600 is a Lion high.
Meghan Wolfer has been a consistent performer for the Lions this year, scoring 41 runs and batting .342.
Senior pitcher Missy Beseres was named to the Big Ten's All-Conference third team. With a 15-11 record, Beseres has an ERA of 1.47. With the conference's second most strikeouts at 239, the Nittany Lion hurler has thrown 13 complete games in 24 games started.