May 9, 2008
The University of Iowa softball team used eight hits, three of which were home runs, to defeat Illinois, 9-1 in five innings Friday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, where they will face Michigan State, who upset No. 2 Michigan Thursday afternoon at approximately 2:15 p.m.
The Hawkeyes managed to hit three home runs off the Fighting Illini pitching staff for the second time in three straight games. The nine runs scored by Iowa are also the second-most in Hawkeye Big Ten Tournament history. Iowa plated 11 runs against Illinois in the 2001 Big Ten Tournament.
“We did a great job of managing the first inning,” Head Coach Gayle Blevins said. “Our offense did a fantastic job of answering and coming back. Our bats are really rolling right now. We are just going to let them play and get out of the way. The team is playing with great purpose and playing together.”
Illinois grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, using three-straight singles to plate Danielle Zymkowitz for the first run of the contest.
Iowa responded with three runs off two long balls in the bottom of the first to take a 3-1 lead. Freshman Chelsey Carmody led off with a triple to the left field fence and scored off an opposite-field home run by junior Colleen McGlaughlin. Sophomore Katie Brown followed with a massive solo home run that nearly cleared Welsh-Ryan Arena in left field for a 3-1 advantage.
Heads-up base running helped Iowa plate another run in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore Lindsey Digmann slapped a single to center and moved to second on a Carmody groundout. Sophomore Taylor Leichsenring then put down a bunt and beat the throw to first for a single, moving Digmann to third. On the play, Leichsenring rounded first and forced a rundown that allowed Digmann to score Iowa’s fourth run of the game.
Iowa used yet another home run in the bottom of the third to take a commanding 8-1 lead. Back-to-back walks to McGlaughlin and Brown started the scoring threat. Later in the inning, senior Emily Nichols singled to load the bases for junior Quinn Morelock, who promptly cleared the bags with a grand slam to right field.
The Hawkeyes wrapped up the win in the fifth inning. Brown continued to stay hot against Illinois with a single to center and was lifted for pinch-runner Rachel West. Junior Erin Riemersma sacrificed West to second and she moved to third on a wild pitch. Morelock then smacked a ground ball to third that was mishandled, which allowed West to score the winning run.
Brown finished a perfect 2-2 with an RBI and a run scored while Morelock collected a career-high four RBI. In three games against the Fighting Illini this season, Brown batted .875 (7-8) with four home runs, one double, seven RBI and five runs scored. She also tallied a 2.500 slugging percentage and a .900 on base percentage.
“We know we can score runs and we are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Brown said. “Brittany pitched great and our defense has always been solid. It’s great to see us scoring runs.”
Weil threw all five innings and allowed one earned run on seven hits with four strikeouts.
“We just focused on quality pitches and getting ahead in counts,” Weil said. “Every pitch counts this time of year. We are hitting so well right now and we need to keep this thing rolling.”
Iowa swept Michigan State in a two-game series April 11 and 12. The Hawkeyes won game one, 4-0, and game two, 5-0. Friday’s semifinal game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network (HD).