Iowa Comeback Falls Short Against Northern Iowa


April 30, 2014

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Facing a nine-run deficit with a run rule loss looming, University of Iowa softball rallied for eight runs in the sixth before ultimately falling to Northern Iowa, 9-8, on Wednesday night. Megan Blank hit two home runs — matching her career-high game total — in the bottom of the sixth to fuel the Hawkeye scoring drive. She has hit three home runs in the last two games.

The loss lowers Iowa’s overall record to 15-27-1, while Northern Iowa improves to 26-18 overall.

After a pair of singles and an error loaded the bases for the Panthers in the top of the first, Chelsea Ross hit a grand slam to give her squad an early advantage. Northern Iowa added its fifth run in the second on a Nicole Fisher solo home run.

Iowa and Northern Iowa traded zeroes in the fourth and fifth innings as Hawkeye starting pitcher Kayla Massey settled in in the circle. She struck out four and limited the Panthers to one hit in the stretch.

Northern Iowa got back to scoring adding one run in the fifth and three more in the top of the sixth, extending its lead to 9-0. Shayla Starkenburg replaced Massey in the circle, and ended the sixth inning Panther push with a strikeout.

The Hawkeyes only needed to score two runs in the bottom half of the sixth to escape a run rule loss, but they rallied for eight runs to cut the deficit to one run. Blank started the scoring drive with a leadoff home run to right. Holly Hoffman kept it going with a single and was replaced by Kara Misel on the basepaths. After a Whitney Repole walk and a wild pitch, an error plated the second run of the inning. With two teammates on base, Claire Fritsch delivered her third triple of the season to clear the bases and bring Iowa within five, 9-4. The Panthers elected to make a pitching change, but the hits kept coming for the Hawkeyes. Consecutive pinch hitters Alyssa Navarro and Michaela Johnson reached on a single and a walk, respectively. Brianna Luna delivered a single through the left side to plate an Iowa run, but the second out was made at third on the play. The hit extended Luna’s hitting streak and reached base streak to six games.

Blank added the final two runs with her second home run of the inning to right field. It marks her third home run in the last two games played and brings her season total to five. She has 18 in her career, which moves her to No. 8 on the all-time list. Her two long balls match her career-high, which was set at Michigan on April 21, 2013.

Starkenburg struck out the side in the top of the seventh to hold Northern Iowa scoreless, but Iowa was retired in order in the bottom half of the frame to end the game, 9-8, in favor of the Panthers.

“We came back in that sixth inning and gave ourselves a chance, unfortunately we had a base running error there that would have given us two runners on when Megan Blank hit that last home run to have tied the ball game at that point,” head coach Marla Looper said. “We had plenty of chances early to put some runs up but we didn’t. Sacrifice bunting someone over would have let a run score on a sacrifice fly rather than just getting a runner to third. They are things that add up. We need to learn from this and do a better job against Ohio State this weekend.”

Massey (9-15-1) took the loss in the circle. She struck out eight but allowed nine runs — seven earned — on 12 hits in her 5.2 innings pitched. Starkenburg threw the final 1.1 innings, struck out four and did not allow a Panther hit in her appearance. Twelve strikeouts is a team-high for Iowa this season.

Blank paced the team with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate and three RBIs. Hoffman also turned in a multiple hit effort, going 2-for-4 in the game. Fritsch added two RBIs, while Navarro and Luna drove in one apiece. Seven of 11 Hawkeyes with at bats in the game recorded a hit.

Iowa hosts Big Ten foe Ohio State in its final series of the regular season this weekend, May 2-4. The series opens with a 6 p.m. (CT) contest on Friday, continues with a 2 p.m. (CT) game on Saturday and concludes with a 1 p.m. (CT) game on Sunday. Friday is 80s Night at Pearl Field, Saturday is Alumni Day and Sunday is Senior Day for Brianna Luna, Kayla Massey and Michelle Zoeller.

Northern Iowa 9, Iowa 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Northern Iowa (26-18) 4 1 0 0 1 3 0 9 12 2
Iowa (15-27-1) 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 8 10 3
Game Decision
W: Fisher (UNI) 16-12
L: Massey (IOWA) 9-15-1