March 2020

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13 W hen it comes to soball, University of Iowa junior Mia Ruther enjoys being in a pickle. Not the ball yard game of pickle where runners are trapped between two bases, but specifically, she thrives under pressure with the result of a game in the balance. "I like being in tough situations with my teammates," Ruther said. "It puts you in the moment. at's what the game is all about, getting excited about little things." Hawkeye soball fans are excited about their new shortstop, an in-state product who arrived in Iowa City aer dominating the junior college ranks at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). She played five seasons at Burlington (Iowa) High School, batting a combined .437 and averaging 39 runs and 14 stolen bases per season. ose are flashy numbers for someone who was essentially overlooked during the recruiting process. "I was never super-focused on getting recruited for soball or sports in general," Ruther said. Still, during her prime recruiting season as a high school junior, she batted .542 with 50 runs and 17 stolen bases. She was named second-team All- State in Class 5A. At some point, Bob Ligouri, head coach at DMACC, exalted the virtues of his program in an email to Ruther's father, Brent. "at sparked it," Ruther said. "I had no interest from state schools. e other school I was looking at was Iowa Central, and that was pretty much it." In her two seasons at DMACC, the Bears went 100-10 and twice finished third at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Tournament. A two-time first-team All- American, Ruther was named to the World Series All-Tournament Team as a sophomore in 2019. at's when small-time Iowa living paid off for the Hawkeyes. Renee Gillespie, who took over as Iowa's head coach in June of 2018, is from Danville, Iowa. at town is less than 12 miles as the crow flies northwest of Burlington. "ere were connections because her family knows my family," Ruther said. ree months aer Gillespie was named Iowa's head coach, the Hawkeyes hosted DMACC in a fall exhibition at Pearl Field. Aer the game, the coach from Danville offered the student-athlete from Burlington a scholarship. "We wish we had nine players like her," Gillespie said of Ruther. "She is a player's player with the speed and ability to make things happen on the field. She has unbelievable hands and an unbelievable understanding of the game." Ruther started playing soball in a city recreation league when she was 10-years-old. She took up slap-hitting three or four years later, and it wasn't until high school when she joined a local travel team. In five years of high school soball, her teams combined for a 99-94 record. All the while, Ruther assumed a ho-hum attitude toward playing at the next level. She capitalized on her opportunity at DMACC and intends to do the same at Iowa. e Hawkeyes are off to a 17-5 start to the season and in 22 games, Ruther is batting .254 with 18 hits and 10 runs. She leads the team with seven sacrifice hits and is tied for the lead with four stolen bases. "Her versatility is important to us," Gillespie said. "Our depth at each position is strong, so being able to get her in the lineup where we can utilize her slapping and speed is going to be important. If we have someone who can't make a shi from second base to shortstop, she is one that can, and still fill in in the outfield whenever we need her."

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