May 5, 2012
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The University of Iowa softball team kept pace in the Big Ten Conference title race by sweeping the doubleheader at Ohio State on Saturday night at Buckeye Field. The Hawkeyes opened with a 2-0 victory in the first game before cranking out 16 hits in a 13-5 victory in the night cap.
“I am proud of how the team came out and took care of business today,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one. We had to come back the second game, but we did a nice job of that.”
The sweep improves Iowa’s record to 25-24 overall and 14-6 in conference play, while the Buckeyes fall to 28-22 overall and 7-12 in league play. Michigan (15-5) maintained its one-game lead in the league with a doubleheader sweep of Wisconsin in Madison.
The series win is Iowa’s fourth straight in Big Ten competition — the first time the team has accomplished the feat since the 2004 season — and the Hawkeyes are over the .500 mark for the first time since March 3 when the team was 9-8.
The opening game featured a pitcher’s duel between UI sophomore Kayla Massey and OSU’s Mikayla Endicott. Massey won the battle, tossing her first career one-hitter to post her fourth shutout in her last six starts. She had two strikeouts to improve to 13-10 on the season.
“Kayla threw really well tonight,” said Looper. “Although she struggled finding the strike zone a little bit, she got us ground ball and fly ball outs. There were some key moments in that game where she got critical outs. When she does that and has that confidence, she can throw to any zone, any hitter.”
Endicott suffered the tough luck loss, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings. She had seven strikeouts and zero walks in the game.
The Hawkeyes got to Endicott in the sixth inning. Juniors Johnnie Dowling and Bradi Wall got things started with consecutive singles before moving to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Megan Blank. Senior Katie Keim’s check swing then resulted in an RBI fielder’s choice to knock in the first run.
Senior Liz Watkins followed with a blooper into shallow left field, but OSU shortstop Alicia Herron couldn’t come up with the catch, allowing Wall to cross the plate to give the Hawkeyes the 2-0 advantage.
Dowling led the offensive attack in game one, going 3-for-3 to tie a career-high.
Ohio State grabbed the 2-0 advantage in the first inning of game two, but the Hawkeyes answered in their second at-bat in a big way, sending 10 batters to the plate. Keim doubled into the left centerfield to lead off the inning before Watkins walked to put two on. Freshman Melanie Gladden then followed with an RBI single up the middle to cut the lead in half.
Following a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Michelle Zoeller, sophomore Malloree Grove delivered a two-run single to left centerfield to give Iowa the 3-2 lead. Junior Ashley Akers and Dowling followed with consecutive singles to load the bases and chase OSU starter Melanie Nichols from the game. Wall then reached on an RBI fielder’s choice on a mental lapse by Buckeye second baseman Melaina Saalfeld.
After Akers was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch, Blank laced a two-run single to left centerfield to push Iowa’s fifth and sixth runs across the plate.
“It’s nice when we can get production from top to bottom,” said Looper. “What helps with that is our aggressive base running. We made things happen. When we force things to happen on the defense, we’re probably going to score some runs.”
Ohio State cut into the deficit, plating one run in the third and two in the fourth to trim Iowa’s lead to 6-5. Herron connected on her Big Ten-leading 13th home run, a line drive shot over the fence in centerfield in the third to make the score 6-3. The Buckeyes got a leadoff triple by Shelby Pickett in the fourth before Leesa Gresham connected on a two-run shot to left centerfield to cut the Hawkeye advantage to a single run.
The Hawkeyes got a pair of runs back in the top of the fifth inning before putting the game away with three in the sixth and two in the seventh. Blank singled to lead off the frame before Keim doubled off the wall in centerfield to put two runners on. With two outs, Zoeller beat out a slow-rolling grounder hit to second base for a two-run infield single, pushing the Iowa advantage to 8-5.
In the sixth, Akers reached on an error to start the inning before Dowling singled to put two runners on. With one out, Blank reached on OSU’s second error of the frame, which allowed Akers to cross the plate. With two outs, Watkins had a two-run single that caromed off Herron’s glove at shortstop to stretch Iowa’s advantage to 11-5.
Iowa loaded the bases in the seventh inning before a pair of infield singles by Dowling and Bradi Wall pushed the Hawkeyes’ 12th and 13th runs across the plate.
Junior Chelsea Lyon picked up her 12th win of the season, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits in the complete game.
Every player in the Hawkeye line-up accounted for at least one of the team’s 16 hits, and six different players tallied multi-hit games. Dowling went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, while Blank (2-for-5, two runs, two RBIs), Keim (2-for-5, two runs), Watkins (2-for-3, two RBIs), Zoeller (2-for-3, one run, two RBIs) and Akers (2-for-4, one run) all had two hits.
Dowling went 6-for-8 (.750) with three runs scored in the doubleheader, and five different Hawkeyes had two RBIs.
Iowa closes out the three-game series tomorrow beginning at 1 p.m. (CT).
“We came here to win a series, and this series isn’t over yet,” said Looper. “We have to sweep this series. We took care of business today, and we have to take care of business tomorrow. We have one more to go.”
|Iowa 2, Ohio State 0||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Iowa (24-24, 13-6)||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||2||5||0|
|Ohio State (28-21, 7-11)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1|
|W: Kayla Massey (IOWA) 13-10|
|L: Mikayla Endicott (OSU) 16-13|
|Iowa 13, Ohio State 5||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Iowa (25-24, 14-6)||0||6||0||0||2||3||2||13||16||1|
|Ohio State (28-22, 7-12)||2||0||1||2||0||0||0||5||5||2|
|W: Chelsea Lyon (IOWA) 12-14|
|L: Melanie Nichols (OSU) 11-9|