March 27, 2010
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EAST LANSING, MI – The University of Iowa softball team opened Big Ten play with a 3-1 win at Michigan State Saturday. The Hawkeyes move to 15-12-1 overall.
Two Iowa miscues in the outfield allowed Michigan State to put its first two batters of the game on second and third with no outs. Michigan State’s Jessica Bracamonte followed with a ground ball to second base, allowing the first run of the game to score.
Junior Jenny Schuelke gave Iowa its first lead of the game in the fifth inning. Sophomore Liz Watkins was hit by a pitch to start the frame and was replaced at first by pinch-runner Sam Valentine. Schuelke followed with a towering, two-run home run over the scoreboard in left field to give Iowa a 2-1 advantage. The round-tripper was Schuelke’s third of the season.
Iowa added an insurance run in the top of the seventh for a 3-1 cushion. Watkins led off the inning with a line shot to the left field fence. Senior Katie Brown then singled to left and Watkins scored after the Spartan left fielder mishandled the ball.
“This was a great way for us to open conference play,” Head Coach Gayle Blevins said. “We overcame a little bit of a tough start and rallied for the win. I thought Amanda (Zust) had a great presence in the circle and Jenny (Schuelke) came through with a clutch hit. We know Michigan State will come ready to play tomorrow, so we need to be ready to go from the start.”
“We are really happy to start Big Ten play with a win,” Schuelke said. “We wanted to keep putting pressure on Michigan State offensively, even though we were playing from behind. Liz (Watkins) did a nice job of getting on base and I was just trying to advance the runner. Fortunately the ball was up in the zone and it carried out of the park.”
Senior Amanda Zust was impressive in the win, allowing no earned runs while scattering just seven hits. Zust struck out five and walked only one in her 12th complete game of the season, upping her record to 9-5.
Iowa and Michigan State conclude the two-game series Sunday in East Lansing at 12 p.m. (CT).