Hawkeyes Top Wildcats in Wild Opener, 12-7
April 12, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The University of Iowa softball team topped Northwestern, 12-7, on Friday night in a wild opening game of a three-game set at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. Trailing 4-2 in the fourth, the Hawkeyes sent 13 batters to the plate, scoring nine runs on eight hits to take an 11-4 lead in their first Big Ten road contest.
The league foes combined for 19 runs on 26 hits. Iowa moves to 23-15 overall and 3-7 in Big Ten play; Northwestern falls to 20-15 and 5-4 in league play. The Hawkeyes are 21-8 away from Iowa City this season.
"The offense saw the pitcher really well the first time through the lineup," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "The second time through, we made adjustments and found opportunities to attack and put a lot of runners on. Our top and bottom of the lineup did a really nice job."
Senior Johnnie Dowling set the tone in the fourth with a lead-off single and a stolen base. Classmate Bradi Wall stepped in and launched a 3-1 pitch over the fence in left center to even the score at 4-4. Following the third walk of the game on 12 pitches to sophomore Megan Blank, junior Kayla Massey just missed a home run, doubling off the wall in left to put runners at second and third with no outs. Junior Michelle Zoeller laid down a squeeze bunt, but Blank was tagged out at home. On the play, Zoeller tried for second and an errant throw from the catcher got by the second baseman, allowing Zoeller to move to third and Massey to score. Zoeller then scored on a passed ball to empty the bases and put Iowa up, 6-4.
The inning continued, as junior Brianna Luna coaxed a walk. Freshman Sammi Gyerman then laced a single to center to push the Hawkeyes' advantage to 7-4. Following a Northwestern pitching change and a fielder's choice, senior Ashley Akers singled to third to move freshman Holly Hoffman to second. Dowling entered the dish for the second time in the frame and laced a double down the line in left to score Hoffman and advance Akers to third. Wall followed with a single to second to score both runners and extend the lead to 10-4. The Wildcats then chose to pitch to Blank. She made them pay, tripling down the line in right to score Wall and give the Hawkeyes a nine-run inning and 11-4 lead.
The Hawkeye offense broke through in the third and fourth after missed opportunities in the first two frames.
"We started the game with a triple, and I was hoping to build off the momentum," said Looper. "We had chances to possibly put it away early, but were unable to."
Iowa (23-15, 3-7) let a golden scoring chance slip away in the opening frame. Dowling launched her league-leading fourth triple of the season to right to open the game. Blank drew a one-out walk and stole second, placing two runners in scoring position. Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau, who tossed no-hitters in each of her last two Friday starts, coaxed a foul out and a strikeout to work out of the jam.
Letourneau helped herself in the bottom half of the opening inning. The Wildcats used two one-out walks in front of a three-run shot down the line in right by Letourneau to grab an early 3-0 lead.
Iowa loaded the bases in the third for Gyerman. Gyerman delivered, roping a two-run single to center to cut the Northwestern lead to 3-2. The Wildcats pushed across a single tally in the bottom half to extend their lead to 4-2.
Following the Hawkeyes' nine-run fourth inning, the home team posted a three-spot in the fifth to cut the deficit to 11-7. Iowa used an RBI single by Massey in the sixth to make the score 12-7, before the junior starter closed out the victory.
Massey earned the win against a potent Northwestern offense, tossing her 19th complete game in her 21st start of the season. She moves to 13-8.
"It is not easy to start a game in a hole," said Looper. "Kayla settled in and started attacking the hitters. She has to continue to get ahead of hitters.
"They are great offensively. They are going to score runs; we just have to score more and try and limit their attack."
Entering the opener, the Hawkeyes had scored 16 runs in their first nine league games combined. Iowa out-hit Northwestern, 15-11, on its way to 12 runs. Four Hawkeye hitters posted three-hit games.
Gyerman equaled a season best with three hits (3-for-5) and posted a season-high three RBIs. Akers notched a season-best three hits and equaled a season high with two runs scored.
"Sammi had a really good night tonight," said Looper. "She was seeing the ball well early and did a nice job staying through it. Fortunately, she was up to bat when we needed her to be. Sammi made things happen tonight."
The top four hitters in the Iowa lineup finished a combined 9-for-15, with five runs, seven RBIs and five walks. Dowling and Wall each finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Wall posted season-highs in hits and RBIs (four) to go along with her second home run of the year. Blank reached base in all five plate appearances, drawing a season-high four walks to go along with a triple and an RBI. The four walks matched a school record. She has reached base in the last 24 contests. Massey helped herself at the plate, finishing 2-for-4 with a run, walk and RBI.
Letourneau took the loss for Northwestern to fall to 13-9. She allowed eight runs on eight hits in three and a third. Meghan Lamberth surrendered four runs on seven hits in three and two-thirds of relief.
Iowa and Northwestern continue action on Saturday at 1 p.m., before concluding the set on Sunday at noon.