Hawkeyes Fall In Championship

The 19th-ranked Iowa softball team finished runner-up at the 2005 Big Ten softball tournament, defeating 17th-ranked Northwestern in the semifinals, 2-1 in eight innings, but were defeated by the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines, 7-2 in the championship game.

The Wolverines proved why they are the top ranked team in the country, pounding out seven runs on nine hits. Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Jennie Ritter allowed two Hawkeye runs, both of which came off a Kylie Murray home run in the top of the sixth inning. Ritter struck out six of the first seven Iowa batters and finished with 11 strikeouts.

Ali Arnold started the championship game on the mound, throwing just over one inning and allowed four runs on four hits. Lisa Birocci entered the game in the second and allowed three runs while striking out four.

Michigan’s 1-4 hitters doomed Hawkeye pitchers collecting seven hits, scoring six runs and driving in four.

In the semifinals, Northwestern took a 1-0 advantage in the top of the fifth on an RBI triple off Hawkeye hurler Lisa Birocci. Iowa evened the contest 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Stacy May lead the inning off with a single to center. May then advanced to second on a Summer Downs sacrifice bunt. Kylie Murray followed with a walk, and May advanced to third on a wild pitch ball four. Emily Nichols then hit a slow bouncer to Garland Cooper at first, the runner raced past Cooper who looked home, but by the time Cooper had assessed the situation, May had touched home to tie the game.

Iowa loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth and had unanimous first team all-Big Ten honoree Mindy Heidgerken up at the plate. After collecting two strikes, Heidgerken nubbed the ball down the third base line and May raced in ahead of the throw to beat the force and send Iowa into the tournament finals. May was 2-for-4 and scored both Hawkeye runs.

Birocci went all eight innings picking up her 28th victory of the season. The senior struck out nine Wildcats en route to victory. Birocci and May were named to the all-tournament team.

The Hawkeyes now wait for the NCAA Selection Show, which will be air live Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNEWS.