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UI Softball: Iowa Sweeps 3-Game Series at Michigan State

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The University of Iowa softball team closed out the three-game sweep at Michigan State, downing the Spartans, 4-1, on Sunday afternoon at Secchia Stadium. It is the Hawkeyes’ second Big Ten Conference sweep and second consecutive series win this season.

“The team came out and took care of business this weekend, and that’s what they wanted to do,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “They did a nice job today in coming out and taking that third game win to get the series win here at East Lansing. It’s not easy to come into someone’s home and take three.”

The win improves Iowa’s record to 20-22 overall and 10-5 in Big Ten action, while the Spartans fall to 11-33 overall and 0-15 in conference play.

The Spartans took advantage of a shaky start by UI starter Kayla Massey, using a walk and a pair of hits to plate the game’s first run. Kylene Hopkins drew a four pitch walk to lead off the frame before consecutive singles loaded the bases. Hopkins then crossed the plate on an RBI groundout by third baseman Jayme O’Bryant.

Iowa answered in its second at-bat courtesy of a solo home run by senior Liz Watkins. The catcher hit an opposite field long ball to right field on an 2-0 count to connect on her third homer in the last four games. It was Watkins’ fourth jack of the season.

“Some people get hot, they get cool, hot, cool, and this is time for Liz to get hot,” said Looper. “She is seeing the ball better and that’s all she needed.”

The Hawkeyes took their first lead in the top of the fourth. Following a one-out walk by Watkins, pinch runner Nikki Gentile stole second to move into scoring position. With two outs, sophomore Michelle Zoeller had an RBI single to left field, and Gentile avoided the tag by MSU catcher Brett Williams to give Iowa the 2-1 advantage.

Iowa added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning. Senior Katie Keim singled to left centerfield to lead off the frame before Watkins walked to put two on. With one out, Zoeller sacrificed the runners up a base before Malloree Grove’s RBI single to left field plated a pair. Watkins scored from second base on the play on a fielding error by left fielder Lori Padilla, extending the Hawkeyes’ lead to 4-1.

Massey picked up her 10th victory of the season, allowing one run on six hits in the complete game. The sophomore had two strikeouts to three walks in the game.

“Kayla struggled early trying to find the zone, and we continued to search for it throughout the game,” said Looper. “It was nice to get some run support late so she didn’t feel like she had to put it right over the plate and still get some ground balls.”

Wall went 3-for-3 at the plate to lead the Hawkeye offensive attack, while Watkins went 1-for-1 with a pair of walks. She also had two runs and an RBI.

Iowa returns to action Thursday night, facing Northern Iowa in a doubleheader at Pearl Field. Game one begins at 5 p.m.

“They’re on a hot streak right now, mowing them down in the Missouri Valley Conference,” said Looper. “They’re a quality ball club, so we have to take care of business and show them how Iowa softball is played.”

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