IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa softball team erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning to propel the Hawkeyes to a 7-0 victory and to salvage a split in the Thursday night doubleheader at Pearl Field. The Panthers were victorious in the opening game, 4-3, in eight innings.
“I wish we could have done a little better in that first game. There were a few too many errors, and we really didn’t take care of business,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “It was nice to come back and get that second game and to do it in a rally fashion in that sixth inning.”
After playing to a scoreless tie through five and a half innings, the Hawkeyes sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth to build a 7-0 advantage. Junior Bradi Wall reached on an error by UNI second baseman Julia Hunter to start the rally before crossing the plate on freshman Megan Blank’s RBI triple down the left field line.
Senior Katie Keim followed with an RBI single to left field on the first pitch of her at-bat, and she moved up two bases on a wild pitch and passed ball. Senior Liz Watkins then followed with an RBI single to left field to make the score 3-0.
Following a Melanie Gladden single and a hit by pitch by pinch hitter Brianna Luna, junior Ashley Akers reached on a fielder’s choice. Pinch runner Nikki Gentile and Gladden scored on the play on the throwing error on Panther shortstop Mackenzie Daigh. Junior Johnnie Dowling followed with an RBI single to knock in Iowa’s sixth run, and Dowling eventually scored on a Panther wild pitch.
“It all started with Bradi Wall, and that confidence and energy raised in the dugout,” said Looper of the rally. “Everyone fed off that.”
Sophomore Kayla Massey pitched around a leadoff walk in the seventh inning to close out her second complete game shutout in three starts and her fourth of the season. The right hander scattered six hits over seven innings while striking out a season-high eight batters to improve her record to 11-9 on the season.
“Kayla went right at them,” said Looper. “She knew she had the stuff to beat them tonight.”
Keim and Akers both notched multi-hit games for the Hawkeyes. Keim went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI, while Akers went 2-for-3. Four different UI players had at least one RBI in the contest.
Panther reliever Jaye Hutcheson suffered the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) in one inning of work. Hutcheson was credited with the victory in game one, allowing three runs (one earned) on seven hits in the complete game.
The Hawkeyes took the early lead in the first inning of opening game. After reaching via a hit by pitch to start the game, Dowling stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by UNI catcher Courtney Dunker. Blank’s sacrifice fly to left field then plated Dowling, making the score 1-0.
The Panthers took the lead in the fourth inning via the long ball. After Allison Galvin singled with one out, right fielder Leah Embrey hit a two-run home run over the right field fence off UI starter Chelsea Lyon, making the score 2-1.
Trailing by a run entering the seventh inning, the Hawkeyes put together a rally. Akers drew a leadoff walk before moving to second base on a Dowling sacrifice bunt. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Wall chopped a grounder over the first baseman for an RBI single to even the game.
Blank followed with a single to right field, but pinch runner Sydney Reynolds was thrown out at second on the play after rounding the base too far, putting a halt to the Hawkeye threat.
After placing Galvin on second base via the international tie-breaking rule, the Panthers used doubles by Whitney Plein and Hunter to take a 4-2 lead. Iowa got one run back in its final at-bat as Keim scored on a wild pitch, but sophomore Michelle Zoeller grounded out to end the game.
Lyon suffered the loss, allowing four runs (three earned) in eight innings. She struck out five batters to four walks in falling to 10-14 overall.
A pair of Hawkeyes tallied four of Iowa’s seven hits. Wall went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Watkins went 2-for-4.
Iowa hosts Indiana for a three-game series Saturday and Sunday at Pearl Field in the final home series of the 2012 season. Saturday’s doubleheader is set to begin at 2 p.m. (CT).
“We have to play Iowa softball and take care of us,” said Looper. “If we take care of ourselves and win every series from here on out, starting with Indiana this weekend, we set ourselves up for a good chance at a run.”