May 8, 2005
IOWA CITY – The University of Iowa softball team was defeated by the Illinois Fighting Illini, 8-7 Sunday at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes mounted a five-run comeback in their last at bat, but could not plate the tying run.
Illinois capitalized on four Iowa errors in the first two innings to gain an 8-0 lead. The Illini plated four runs in both the first and second inning, including a grand slam by first baseman Jenna Hall.
Iowa started chipping away in the third, scoring two runs to cut the Illinois lead to six. Lisa Birocci led off with a walk and Stacy May followed with a single to left field. Summer Downs laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners and Kylie Murray roped a single through the ride side, scoring both Birocci and May.
After three scoreless innings, Iowa mounted its comeback in the top of the seventh. Steph Ackerson started the rally with a pinch hit single and was replaced on the base path by Brandi Sargent, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Birocci then walked and May drilled a line drive back to the pitcher, who nearly made an outstanding play, but all runners reached base safely. Another wild pitch allowed Sargent to score and Iowa trailed, 8-3.
With two outs, Murray belted a single to center field, scoring both May and Birocci to cut the Illinois lead to 8-5. Emily Nichols and Sami Baugh drew back-to-back walks and the bases were laoded for Mindy Heidgerken who crushed a deep fly ball the glanced off the top of the fence, just inches from a grand slam. Baugh and Nichols scored on the double to pull the Hawkeyes within one run, but a groundout to Hall at first base sealed the win for Illinois.
May and Murray each collected three hits for Iowa. Murray also added four RBI while May scored two runs.
Ali Arnold took the loss, allowing seven runs on three hits. Only two runs were earned. Birocci threw five innings of relief and struck out five.
The Hawkeyes (45-11) finished third in the Big Ten with an 11-6 record. Iowa is the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and will face No. 6 seed Penn State at 12 p.m. (EST) Friday. The Big Ten Tournament will be hosted by Michigan, who claimed the regular season crown with an 8-7 victory over Northwestern on Sunday.