April 1, 2009
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IOWA CITY – Senior Brittany Weil threw just the third perfect game in Iowa softball history, while freshman Liz Watkins hit a walk-off, solo-home run to give Iowa a thrilling, 1-0 win over Illinois in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes followed in game two with three home runs for a 9-1, six-inning triumph over the Fighting Illini.
Weil had the Illinois hitters fooled on this April Fool’s Day, facing the minimum in the thrilling first game of a twin bill. Weil struck out the side in the first and recorded two K’s in the second, third and seventh frames for a total of 13 for the game. The Fighting Illini offense, which entered the day as the best hitting team in the Big Ten, didn’t even get a ball out of the infield against the Garden Grove, CA, native, as Iowa’s defense recorded eight infield putouts.
Weil joins former Hawkeye all-American Debbie Bilbao as the only Iowa players to ever throw a perfect game. Bilbao accomplished the feat twice, tossing a perfect game in both the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Weil also shattered Bilbao’s record for most hitless games in a season, as Wednesday’s perfect game was Weil’s third of the season. She tossed her first-career no-hitter Feb. 13 against Kent State and her second no-hitter Feb. 22 at Kennesaw State. If Weil manages to toss another hitless game, she will tie Bilbao for the most hitless games in a career.
After Weil sat down the Fighting Illini in order in the top of the seventh, catcher Liz Watkins secured the perfect game by belting her team-leading fifth home run of the season over the right field fence for the win. It was Watkins’ first walk-off home run at Iowa, and the first walk-off long ball for the Hawkeyes since 2007, when Erin Riemersma belted a two-run walk-off in the bottom of the eighth to defeat Illinois as well.
Fighting Illini pitcher Monica Perry kept the Hawkeyes in check until the last frame, allowing only one hit with nine strikeouts.
“It felt great out there tonight,” Weil said. “Illinois is a very good hitting team, but I thought we had a great game plan going in. The defense behind me made some great plays to keep us in the game, and Liz (Watkins) came through with a huge hit. This was a big night for us tonight.”
“It was a lot of fun catching Brittany (Weil) tonight,” Watkins said. “Perfect games are pretty special, and I’m glad that she finally got one. She has been so close this year a few times. As far as the last at-bat, I was just trying to drive something to get us started, and it ended up going over the fence. It was a great feeling to help the team get that win, because we all battled really hard tonight. We knew that getting a win in that first game was important.”
Iowa came out swinging in game two, plating five runs in the first inning for a commanding lead. After back-to-back singles by sophomore Chelsey Carmody and junior Taylor Leichsenring started the inning, Watkins once again lit up the scoreboard with a towering three-run home run to center. Junior Katie Brown then reached on an Illinois error, and was replaced by senior Callie Adreon on the bases. Junior Lindsey Digmann drew a walk and Riemersma singled to load the bases. Senior Sam Heinzman waited patiently through an at-bat and drew a walk, scoring Adreon from third. Freshman Missy Mazur was then hit by a pitch, forcing another Hawkeye run to the plate.
The Fighting Illini committed a throwing error with two outs in the bottom of the third to give Iowa a 6-0 lead. Illinois managed to get one run back in the fourth when Weil hit a batter with the bases loaded, but Brown got that run back in the bottom of the fourth when she blasted a solo home run to right field.
Senior Quinn Morelock kept the home runs coming on the bottom of the fifth with her third round-tripper of the season. Iowa ended things early in the sixth when freshman Katie Keim drove in Digmann with an infield single.
Weil started game two and threw 3.2 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts. Weil struck out a total of 18 batters Wednesday and needs only two more strikeouts to tie Iowa’s all-time strikeout record. She threw a total of 164 pitches against Illinois, with 113 going for strikes.
Junior Amanda Zust picked up the win in game two, throwing 2.1 innings of relief. Zust was very impressive, facing 10 batters and giving up only two hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Zust has now won her last 15-straight decisions.
Iowa’s offense was led by Brown and Digmann in the second game, both collecting two hits. Game two of the doubleheader marks the first time this season that Iowa has hit three home runs in a game.
“Brittany (Weil) had a great presence tonight,” Head Coach Gayle Blevins said. “She was on her game and it showed. It was big for us to get a close win in that first game, and it was great to see our offense come out swinging early in the second. Liz (Watkins) was impressive tonight as well. To hit a home run like that to win a game, then come back and maintain focus to help your team again speaks volumes to her maturity.”
The Hawkeyes will look to continue their winning ways Saturday against Penn State at Pearl Field. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.