WOODWARD — Oh what is happening. Oh what has already happened. Oh what could have happened.
All are apropos for Woodward-Granger senior Dalaney Bice, who currently stands fifth on Iowa’s career home run list with 53 dingers.
Bice showed promise early with six big fly’s as an eighth grader, which was followed by a 17-homer barrage as a freshmen. The opposition quickly learned their lesson, and, despite pitching the bomber carefully, fell victim to 12 home runs her sophomore season.
Then came an errant planting of her left leg while pitching for her club team, the Outlaws, shortly before the start of her junior season. The result was a badly torn ACL.
“I tried to see if I could play through it, and played in one game, but I just could not do it,” Bice admitted after finishing 2-for-3 with a pair of singles. “Two days later I had the operation.”
And with that, what might have been at least another dozen or more home runs went by the wayside. The recovery cost Bice any chance of playing volleyball or basketball as a senior and also kept her from competing this spring on the track team.
“It (her knee) felt good, so I played spring ball with the Outlaws this year,” she said. “I have never felt bad about it, because that wasn’t going to change anything. All that mattered was working to get back for softball this year.”
Bice has a state-leading 18 home runs this year and leads Class 2A by six deep shots. Her fourth homer this year broke Josie Barrow’s school record of 38; Bice currently sits fifth all-time with 53 bombs.
A trio of active seniors leads the list, with Ankeny Centennial’s Kendyl Lindaman’s 66 homers topping the chart. Benton Community’s Alyssa Wiebel is second with 60 and Bettendorf’s DoniRae Mayhew is third with 57. Waterloo West’s Jadyn Spencer (no longer active) is fourth at 54.
All four have had the advantage of five full seasons, making Bice’s productivity even more impressive. Lindaman’s 66 have come in 192 games, Wiebel’s 60 in 202 contests and Mayhew’s 57 in 172 outings while Bice has launched 53 in just 142 games.
“I knew about Josie’s record once somebody told me, but I had no idea I was in the top five,” Bice told ThePerryNews.com. “Honestly I don’t keep track of it myself, but I know my parents (Rod and Missy) do. My mom makes sure I get the balls if she can.
“What is important to me is that I get hits and we win,” she added. “If they go out, great, but winning is what matters to me.”
It is not uncommon for female athletes to see productivity decrease as they mature, but that has not been the case for Bice, as the numbers attest. Lindaman’s best season (24) came as a freshman, Wiebel (21) as a junior and Mayhew (17) as a sophomore. Lindaman has 10 home runs in 30 games this year, Wiebel 13 in 35 games and Mayhew 11 in 34 while Bice has 18 in 30.
Bice had three home runs last weekend at a tournament in Iowa City. Number 53 came against Central Clinton, but launches 51 and 52 came against fifth-ranked Iowa City Regina, the defending state champions and one of two ranked teams W-G will need to defeat if the Hawks are to earn a spot in the state tournament.
“I think it is sometimes easier to hit them (home runs) in tournaments because we are usually playing teams that don’t know me,” Bice said. “The conference teams or others we see usually try and pitch me differently.”
One thing those pitchers do not do is strike Bice out. She has been set down on strikes just three times in 111 total plate appearances. The slugger has 11 doubles and one triple, chiefly because if Bice gets a hold of a pitch it is leaving, not bouncing to the fence.
Her slugging percentage of 1.177 trails only Lindaman (1.183), and while Lindaman has one more double on four fewer hits than Bice, the Centennial star has drawn 30 additional walks. Bice boasts an on-base percentage of .545 and is hitting .479 in the lead-off spot, a change for past seasons, which were spent as the clean-up hitter.
Hawk head coach Noah Bean said before the season started that he knew the move would be a trade-off of sorts.
“It might limit her RBI chances (Bice currently has 42),” Bean said at the time, “but I want her getting as many at-bats as possible.”
“I am just trying to get hits,” Bice said. “One thing I always do in the on-deck circle is look at my dad. We make eye contact and it reminds me to just go up there and concentrate on hitting the ball hard.”
So far, those knowing looks have led to 53 balls landing on the other side of the outfield fence. The senior insisted that learning she was in the all-time top-five for career blasts would not change her approach at the plate.
“As long as we keep winning, I don’t care how many I end up with,” she said.
While there is no reason not to take the senior slugger at her word, history shows if the Hawks keep winning, Bice bombs are bound to play a role.
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