IOWA CITY, Iowa — Johnnie Dowling’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the University of Iowa softball team to a 10-8 victory over Northwestern Saturday afternoon at Pearl Field. |IOWA CITY, Iowa — Johnnie Dowling’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the University of Iowa softball team to a 10-8 victory over Northwestern Saturday afternoon at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes rallied from an 8-6 deficit with two runs in the seventh before the long ball lifted the squad to the extra inning victory.
“It’s like a boxing match, we talk about that every day,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “You’re going to give a blow; you’re going to take one. It’s all about the knockout punch. We kept ourselves in the game, so we could have that knockout punch in the bottom of the eighth.”
Northwestern loaded the bases in the top of the eighth inning behind singles by Robin Thompson and Adrienne Monka and an intentional walk to Michelle Batts. With two outs on the board, UI starter Kayla Massey got a ground ball to get a force out at second base to keep the Wildcats off the board.
Iowa catcher Liz Watkins led off the bottom of the eighth with a hit by pitch — her third of the game — bringing Dowling to the plate. The sophomore drilled the first pitch she saw from NU reliever Sammy Albanese down the left field line for the walk off two-run shot. It was her third home run of the season.
“It was a new pitcher and a new at-bat for Johnnie,” said Looper. “She didn’t necessarily have a good day against the other pitcher. She went in there, freed it up and didn’t worry about the past and worried about that moment. When she did, she took care of it.”
“I stepped into the on-deck circle and Coach B (Adrianna Baggetta) told me I needed to refocus,” said Dowling, who finished the day 1-for-4 with three RBI. “I took a couple of deep breaths, and she gave me a pitch to hit. I think right when I made contact with it, I knew it was going to be out.”
The Hawkeyes were in a position to end the game in the seventh inning after plating three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Michelle Zoeller led off the frame with a single through the left side before Ashley Akers reached on a throwing error where she collided with NU second baseman Marisa Bast. The collision forced the ball to go out of play, allowing Zoeller to score and Akers to move up a base.
Chelsey Carmody reached on a fielder’s choice when Wildcat shortstop Emily Allard got Akers into a run down, but the Iowa sophomore beat the throw to third, putting runners on first and third. Following a groundout by Stephanie Ochoa, Watkins hit a two-run double down the left field line to give the Hawkeyes the 6-5 lead.
Northwestern wouldn’t back down, as it fought back to regain the lead in the top of the seventh. Following a Thompson walk and an Adrienne Monka single to start the inning, Batts connected on a 2-0 pitch for a towering three-run home run over the right field fence to give Northwestern the 8-6 lead.
Iowa’s seventh inning rally began with a one-out double by freshman Nikki Gentile to centerfield, and she crossed the plate on Zoeller’s RBI single up the middle. Following Katie Keim’s fly out to center, Iowa called on Brianna Luna as a pinch hitter. The freshman came through with an RBI double to left field to knot the game at eight.
Iowa scored the game’s first run in its opening at-bat, using Watkins’ hit by pitch with the bases loaded to plate Keim. Northwestern tied the score at one on Thompson’s RBI double in the top of the third, but the Hawkeyes regained the lead via small ball with a Dowling sacrifice bunt plating Carmody in the bottom of the inning.
The Wildcats took their first lead with two runs in the fourth and stretched their advantage to 5-2 with two more in the fifth. Iowa began its rally scoring one run in the bottom of the fifth on Ochoa’s RBI double to left centerfield.
Massey picked up the victory in the circle — her 11th of the season — for the Hawkeyes, despite allowing eight runs (seven earned) in a career-high eight innings. The freshman struck out three and walked five in the contest.
Four Iowa players posted multi-hit games, as the quartet accounted for nine of the team’s 14 hits. Keim had her fourth straight multi-hit affair, going 3-for-5 with a run scored. Watkins reached base in all five plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with three RBI to go along with the three hit by pitch. Ochoa (2-5) and Zoeller (2-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI) also had solid days at the plate.
Iowa (23-16, 6-3) closes out the series against Northwestern tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. The game, which is Girl Scout Day at Pearl Field, will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network HD.