March 21, 2014
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Iowa softball came from behind to defeat Illinois in its Big Ten conference opener, 4-3, in nine innings. The Hawkeyes are 1-0 in conference action and 6-13 overall following game one of the series, while the Fighting Illini drop to 0-1 in conference and 14-8 overall.
The Fighting Illini opened the first inning with a single and used a sacrifice bunt to put a runner in scoring position. An Alex Booker single to left followed to plate a run and give Illinois a 1-0 lead before the Hawkeyes could end the inning with a groundout and foul out.
The Fighting Illini added their second run in as many innings with two outs in the bottom of the second. An Iowa miscue gave Illinois a base runner and a Kylie Johnson triple allowed the unearned run to score.
The Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini traded zeroes in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, keeping the score set at 2-0. Iowa starting pitcher Kayla Massey settled in in the circle and limited Illinois to one hit in the stretch.
Facing a two-run deficit in the top of the seventh, the Iowa offense came alive. Megan Blank opened frame with a single to left and Massey came through with a two-out home run to left centerfield to knot the contest, 2-2. It was Massey’s second long ball of the season. The Hawkeye defense retired Illinois in order in the bottom half to send the game to extra innings.
A scoreless eighth inning followed before Iowa came through with two runs in the top of the ninth to jump ahead. Blank led off with a double — her fourth of the season — and came home on a Massey double. Holly Hoffman kept the rally going with an RBI single to center to give the Hawkeyes a two-run lead, 4-2.
Illinois cut the deficit to one run with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, but the Hawkeyes used a groundout, fly out and a pop out to solidify their first conference win, 4-3.
“I definitely think we can carry this momentum into many games,” Massey said. “Now we have the confidence to do anything.”
“We came back and won, but there are still things we can learn from,” head coach Marla Looper said. “Kayla really buckled in after the first few weekends when they were hitting some hard shots off of her. I wish we could have held on to that two-run lead instead of a one-run, but I’ll take the win any way we can.”
Massey (3-8) earned the complete game win in the circle for Iowa. She struck out four — three looking — in her nine innings of work, and held Illinois to three runs — two earned. Illinois starter Brandi Needham (9-4) was tagged with the loss.
Leading the Hawkeye offense with three RBIs and two hits was Massey. She went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored a run. Also recording two hits were Blank (2-for-3) and Hoffman (2-for-4).
Iowa and Illinois will conclude the series with a doubleheader on Saturday, March 22. Game one will begin at 1 p.m. (CT). Fans can follow along with the action through audio or live stats at hawkeyesports.com.
|Iowa 4, Illinois 3 (9 innings)||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Iowa (6-13, 1-0)||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||2||4||7||2|
|Illinois (14-8, 0-1)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||7||0|
|W: Massey (IOWA) 3-8|
|L: Needham (ILL) 9-4|