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Cyclones Strive For Consistency In Season’s Second Half

logo_iowa_state_cyclonesAMES, Iowa – With half of the regular season behind them, the Cyclones (14-16, 0-0 Big 12) enter Big 12 play this weekend aiming for more strong offensive showings, like the team’s 14 games with 10 or more hits, and more shutdown pitching, as the Cyclones showcased in defeating No. 6 Oregon, during the second half of 2013.

“I think consistency [is a major area for us to improve on],” head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “We’ll come out and play really well in a game and the not be able to repeat the same performance. Or, of the three aspects of the game – pitching, defense and hitting – we’ll have two of the three going instead of all three working consistently.”

The season’s inconsistencies included hitters collecting at least 10 hits in 14 games but five or fewer in nine contests, three such performances coming against top-10 teams, defenders going errorless in 14 games but posting miscues in 16 and pitchers holding teams to five or fewer runs on 13 occasions while giving up six or more in 17 contests.

“If you look at our record, I don’t think we are where we want to be or where I thought we would be,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “There’re a lot of things we can do to get better individually and as a team.

Already this season, Iowa State has played four top-25 teams, and Big 12 play will add three more ranked opponents to the Cyclones’ schedule in No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Texas and this weekend’s foe, No. 16 Baylor. Regardless of who steps to the plate or into the circle against the Cyclones, Gemeinhardt-Cesler believes her team needs to focus on itself first.

“The big thing is not reading too much into who we’re playing,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “It’s more that day in, day out consistency that we’re concerned about, being able to, no matter what happens, to get back up and fight. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we still have to go out and play.”

And the eighth-year coach doesn’t have to look far to find players who are more than ready to fight through the season’s rough spots. Sophomore Jorden Spendlove and junior Sara Davison have proven to be stalwart competitors. Spendlove has already broken her own single-season record with 10 doubles and has driven in 24 runs on .322 hitting this season. Davison, a versatile player who has spent time at both second base and catcher this season and hit in five different spots in the order, is hitting .289 with six doubles and 13 RBI.

“They’re both super steady, both on and off the field; you know what you’re going to get from them every day,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “They consistently work hard, they consistently think that they are going to win and are going to be successful. Jorden has made big improvements from last year, and Sara, she’s so athletic to where she can move around [defensively] and make our team stronger wherever she’s playing.”

As they have since becoming fulltime starters in 2010, seniors Erica Miller and Tori Torrescano continue to lead much of the Iowa State offense. Both players are on pace to break the single-season RBI record while steadily climbing the program’s career record lists in nine offensive statistical categories. Torrescano, with 10 homers on the year, is four home runs from tying the single-season home run record she set last season.

Sandwiched between Miller’s team-high .379 batting average and Torrescano’s .349 mark is freshman Brittany Gomez who is hitting .358 with a team-high 34 hits and 32 runs scored. Gomez, who owns the Cyclone single-season stolen base record with 20, is on pace to become the first Cyclone since Jenny Condon in 1985 to score 40 runs in a season.

For much of the year, Gomez has batted in the second spot in the lineup behind leadoff hitter, and fellow newcomer, Sarah Hawryluk. A junior transfer with speed of her own, Hawryluk has stolen 12 bases this season, giving opponents a lot to watch out for when both players occupy bases at the same time.

“[Brittany and Sarah] really open up our offense,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “When they get on base, it sets the table and we score a lot more runs. On the flip side, when they’re not getting on base, it seems like our offense has a tough time getting going. You can do so many things with those two at the top of the lineup and when they’re getting on base.”

In the circle, the three Cyclone starting pitchers have shown what they can do, highlighted by Torrescano’s complete game win over No. 6 Oregon. Torrescano gave up one run on six hits in the contest, walked two and fanned four. She and freshman Riley Fisher have each thrown no-hitters this season and junior Taylor Smith leads the staff in ERA.

“[Our pitchers] have shown how good they can be,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “Tori against Oregon, and she threw a great game against Elon too, Riley threw really well [at FAU] and Taylor is such a worker and is always working to get better. They have all improved and gotten better and now we have to make those appearances more often.”

Baylor will be the first Big 12 team to test Iowa State this season in a three game series, March 22-23. The teams will play a doubleheader on Friday, March 22, with game one set for 2 p.m. CDT and game two to follow at 4 p.m.

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