April 23, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa softball team dropped both games of a doubleheader to Illinois on Tuesday at Pearl Field. The Fighting Illini claimed the opener, 8-5, before winning the second game, 6-3.
Iowa falls to 24-21 overall and 4-13 in conference play; Illinois improves to 16-25 and 6-11 in league action. Illinois has won five-straight overall.
“We talked between games about playing Iowa softball, like we did during the first 26 games of the season,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “That team has not shown up in conference play, and I am looking forward to seeing that again because that is a fun team to watch. We have to be better, and not rely on one offensive player to be a spark. Right now, we are waiting on Megan Blank to do something, and we cannot expect her to do it all the time. We have to execute as a team.”
Megan Blank paced the Iowa offense with three RBIs and three runs scored in the twin bill. She finished 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Blank, last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week, has reached base in 31-straight games, including all 17 of Iowa’s league contests.
She has 11 home runs, marking the third most in a single season in program history, and 56 RBIs — the second most in a season in Iowa history. Blank is hitting .461 with eight regular season games left. The Iowa record is .428 — set by Kim Davis in 1993. In addition, Blank is batting .535 in league play.
Senior Johnnie Dowling (3-for-6), junior Michelle Zoeller (3-for-7), and freshman Holly Hoffman (2-for-6) posted multiple hits. Dowling recorded her team-leading 18th multi-hit game of the season in game one. The Iowa offense was hurt by missed opportunities, stranding nine base runners in the opener, and 12 in game two.
The Hawkeyes got off to a good start, plating two runs in the opening inning of game one to grab a 2-0 lead. Dowling was hit by a pitch before Blank stepped to the dish with one away. She smacked her third home run in as many games over the fence in right center to put Iowa up early.
Illinois answered in the next frame and never looked back, scoring eight runs on six hits and a Hawkeye error to grab an 8-2 lead.
The Hawkeyes cut the lead to 8-4 in the fifth with an RBI double off the bat of Blank and an RBI single from Hoffman. Zoeller just missed a home run in the seventh, tripling off the wall in center to open the last at-bat. She later came home to score on a wild pitch, cutting the lead to 8-5. It was too late though, as Illinois retired the next three Hawkeye hitters to claim the opener.
Shelese Arnold earned the win, tossing 4.1 innings. She allowed four runs on five hits. Iowa starter Kayla Massey took the loss, surrendering eight runs on eight hits in an inning and a third. Micaela Whitney pitched the final five and two-thirds for the Hawkeyes, allowing zero runs on three hits.
“Mac (Micaela Whitney) did a nice job today,” said Looper. “She came in with the mentality we needed and kept them off balance.”
Illinois scored first in the nightcap, posting three runs in the third. Iowa answered in the bottom half, scoring two runs on an RBI single by Massey and a sacrifice fly by Brianna Luna to cut the lead to a run at 3-2.
The visitors registered their second three-run inning of the game in the sixth, taking control at 6-2. Hoffman hit a lead-off home run in the seventh, making the final score, 6-3.
Pepper Gay tossed a complete seven innings to earn the victory for Illinois. She allowed three runs on six hits. Whitney made her first start in conference play for Iowa, pitching six and a third. She surrendered six runs (three earned) on 10 hits.
The Hawkeyes continue action Thursday at Northern Iowa. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. Iowa returns home to host Penn State in a three-game set this weekend. Game one is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Pearl Field.
|Illinois 8, Iowa 5||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Illinois (15-25, 5-11)||0||8||0||0||0||0||0||8||11||1|
|Iowa (24-20, 4-12)||2||0||0||0||2||0||1||5||7||1|
|W: Shelese Arnold (ILL) 8-10|
|L: Kayla Massey (IOWA) 13-11|
|Illinois 6, Iowa 3||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Illinois (16-25, 6-11)||0||0||3||0||0||3||0||6||10||0|
|Iowa (24-21, 4-13)||0||0||2||0||0||0||1||3||6||1|
|W: Pepper Gay (ILL) 8-15|
|L: Micaela Whitney (IOWA) 3-1|