May 8, 2014
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By JIL PRICE
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Iowa and Illinois entered the seventh inning scoreless, but the Fighting Illini rallied to record the 6-0 final win to eliminate the Hawkeyes from the 2014 Big Ten Softball Tournament on Thursday.
Illinois advances to the second round of the tournament and will face the No. 1 seed Michigan. Iowa ends the 2014 season with a 16-30-1 overall record.
The Hawkeyes left six runners on base in the contest, four in scoring position. A Brianna Luna inning-opening double in the first put the first runner in scoring position, and Michelle Zoeller became the second after reaching on an error and moving to second base on a Claire Fritsch bunt in the third.
Iowa put two in scoring position in the sixth with one away after a Megan Blank walk and a Kayla Massey single through the left side, but the Illini were able to end the scoring opportunity with a strikeout and a groundout.
Massey and the Hawkeye defense held strong and worked through several jams in the first six innings of the ball game to maintain the shutout. Illinois put its leadoff hitter on base in five of seven innings, but were unable to reach the scoring column until a Nicole Evans leadoff home run in the top of the seventh. The Fighting Illini sent 11 batters to the plate in the seventh and scored six runs on eight hits and one error.
Alyssa Navarro recorded a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh, but a pair of fielder’s choice plays ended the Hawkeye comeback hopes and the game in favor of Illinois, 6-0.
“As it should be, it’s disheartening that we’re done,” head coach Marla Looper said. “This season has been up and down but we saw some great things for our program. We’ve had some highs that I think we can build on. It was a short weekend for us, and unfortunately we’re going to miss our seniors Kayla, Brianna and Michelle. We’re going to have to find people to replace them which isn’t going to be easy.”
Massey (10-17-1) was tagged with the loss in the circle. She struck out seven bringing her season total to 121, which surpasses her previous career-high of 120 strikeouts in her sophomore season.
“I hope that the competitiveness continues to stay with the team after we’re gone,” Massey said. “I hope the girls keep working hard, and I want them to win next year.”
|Illinois 6, Iowa 0||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|W: Needham (ILL) 17-14|
|L: Massey (IOWA) 10-17-1|