Hawkeyes Shut Out Minnesota, Advance to B1G Semifinals

May 8, 2015

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 10th-seeded University of Iowa softball team advanced to the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament with a 2-0 victory over No. 2 seed and 12th-ranked Minnesota (46-9) on Friday night. The Hawkeyes (19-39) snapped the Golden Gophers’ eight-game win streak with the upset.

“I’m proud of this group and how they continued to scrap again tonight,” fifth-year head coach Marla Looper said. “We faced Minnesota three times this year and didn’t have much success at all – very little to be exact.

“We came in here tonight knowing that Minnesota had to see another team and they did see another team. I couldn’t be more proud of this team. We are going to continue to fight and scrap until it’s all over.”

Redshirt sophomore Shayla Starkenburg (17-22) threw a gem in the circle to become the third pitcher to shut out Minnesota this season. She held the Golden Gophers — a team that averages over nine hits per game — to two hits in her complete game effort with four strikeouts.

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“I think the biggest thing working for me today was keeping the ball down low and letting my defense work,” Starkenburg said. “The key note I took away from the previous games against Minnesota was to keep the ball down and let the defense help. That’s what I did today.”

The pitchers’ duel was hitless until the top of the third inning, when sophomore Claire Fritsch legged out an infield single with one away. After a fielder’s choice by redshirt sophomore Sammi Gyerman, senior Megan Blank singled through the right side. Gyerman wheeled to third on the play and drew a throw from the Gophers, allowing Blank to reach scoring position at second.

Redshirt junior Holly Hoffman came through with a timely hit, doubling in a pair of Hawkeye runs. It was her eighth double of the season and the 17th of her career.

“It was awesome,” Hoffman said. “My first at bat didn’t go well, and I was taking some really big cuts. When I got down in the count, I knew I needed to shorten up my swing and take a calmer approach. I went to my two-strike approach and just focused on putting the ball in play.”

Though the Hawkeyes went hitless in the remainder of the contest, their lead held up thanks to stellar defensive efforts, including Starkenburg to Blank to sophomore Kaitlyn Mullarkey double plays in the sixth and seventh innings.

The second of which secured the win for Iowa, ending an eight-game losing streak for the program against Minnesota. The Hawkeyes’ last defeated the Golden Gophers, 5-4, on May 12, 2012.

Fritsch, Blank, and Hoffman each posted a hit in the contest. Hoffman drove in a pair of runs to bring her Big Ten Tournament RBI total to three. Five Hawkeyes own averages above .300 in postseason pay thus far, including junior Whitney Repole (.500), Blank (.429), Fritsch (.429), Hoffman (.333), and Gyerman (.333).

Starkenburg is now 2-0 in Big Ten Tournament play with two complete game victories. She owns an earned run average of 1.50 in the two-game stretch.

Iowa advances to face No. 3-seeded Nebraska (33-20) on Saturday, May 9. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. (CT) and will be shown live on the Big Ten Network.

“I think Nebraska is going to see a different team than they saw at the beginning of the season,” Looper said. “We are coming off a little bit of a high. We will get to enjoy this for a little bit and then we are going to sleep well tonight and be ready to get after them tomorrow.”

Iowa 2, #12 Minnesota 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Iowa (19-39) 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 3 2
Minnesota (46-9) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1
Game Decision
W: Starkenburg (IOWA) 19-22
L: Groenewegen (MINN) 28-5
GameisWon2
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