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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa softball team completed its first sweep in conference action with a pair of wins — a 4-3 win in game one and a 5-2 victory in game two — over Nebraska on Wednesday night at Pearl Field. This is the first time the Hawkeyes have defeated the Huskers since March 29, 2013 (6-2).
“Getting the sweep feels great,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “We knew we’d have a battle on our hands, but we knew if we took care of the ball we could set ourselves up to win. We did a nice job in the circle as well as defensively, and then we scored some runs too. It’s nice to be able to carry that into the weekend.”
The Hawkeyes won game one in walk-off fashion. With the score knotted at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Lea Thompson singled to right field and advanced to second on the throw. Kaitlyn Mullarkey then smacked a double to the left field wall to score Thompson, securing the walk-off victory for the Hawkeyes.
“I think game one was a true sign that this team doesn’t quit,” said Looper. “We’ve shown that over and over, but we haven’t always had the positive outcome along with the grit. Today, we had the outcome too.
“Kaitlyn (Mullarkey) stayed calm, cool, and collected in the final at-bat, and she was able to drive in that winning run. It’s nice to win in walk-off fashion, especially at home, and that gave us momentum heading into game two.”
Angela Schmiederer was 2-for-3 with two RBI, Mullarkey was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, and Claire Fritsch was 2-for-3 in game one. Brooke Rozier and Allie Wood also chipped in hits. Allison Doocy collected the win, throwing four strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched.
The Hawkeyes took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Thompson walked and advanced to third on a Mullarkey double to left field before a Schmiederer single up the middle scored the duo.
Nebraska (16-21, 6-5 Big Ten) drew even in the top of the third inning on an MJ Knighten RBI triple and a Kaylan Jablonski sacrifice fly to right field, but Iowa responded in the bottom of the frame. Thompson walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a Wood ground out, scoring as Rozier singled to center field.
Nebraska tied the game again in the top of the fourth as Bri Cassidy hit an RBI triple to left field before Iowa secured the victory in the bottom of the seventh.
Schmiederer was a perfect 2-for-2 and Cheyenne Pratt was 2-for-3 with a run in game two. Thompson, Mullarkey, and Rozier added hits, while Thompson, Fritch, Alex Rath, and McKenzie Schneider scored. Shayla Starkenburg earned the win, notching four strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched.
“I think we were seeing the ball pretty well today in both games,” said Looper. “We watched some good pitches go by early, but as the game went on we were able to square some up and that’s important. We have to continue to hit good pitches and watch the bad ones go by. When we do, we have outcomes like we did today.”
The Cornhuskers jumped ahead early in game two as Jablonski hit an RBI double to left field in the top of the first frame, but the Hawkeyes answered in the bottom of the third inning. Thompson singled to shortstop, advanced to third on a Mullarkey single to right center, and scored on a Wood ground out.
Iowa took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Schmiederer doubled down the left field line and Rath entered as a pinch runner. Rath then scored as Kilian reached first on an error. Schneider entered as a pinch runner for Kilian before Pratt singled to left field and Fritsch walked to load the bases for the Hawkeyes. Schneider scored as Devin Cantu reached on a Nebraska error, while Pratt scored as Mullarkey reached on a fielder’s choice.
Nebraska added a run in the fifth when Taylor Otte scored as Alyvia Simmons reached on a fielder’s choice, but the Hawkeyes answered in the bottom of the sixth frame. Fritsch walked, advanced to second as Taylor reached on a Nebraska error, moved to third as Thompson was hit by a pitch, and scored on a ball put in play by Mullarkey.
“The challenge is to not get complacent after these wins,” said Looper. “We can’t just show up to the park and win, because those were not easy wins. We have to keep fighting and remember that the game is not over until that last out is made.
“It is nice taking some momentum and a little streak into the weekend, but starting tomorrow it’s a new day and a new game. We have to do a good job of attacking practice so we can attack Rutgers on Friday night.”
The Hawkeyes (12-23, 5-6 Big Ten) host Rutgers in a three-game series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. (CT). Game two is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m., with the series finale slated for 12 p.m. Sunday.