April 13, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The University of Iowa softball team outlasted Northwestern, 15-14, in a marathon on Saturday in the middle game of a three-game set at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The slugfest included 29 runs on 25 hits and lasted almost three hours. The Hawkeyes clinch the series victory after winning the opener Friday night, 12-7.
The 15 runs are the most by Iowa in a conference game since May 3, 1997, when the Hawkeyes won at Penn State, 19-1. It also marks the most runs for Iowa against the Wildcats in 100 meetings. The 15 runs equal the second most ever by Iowa in a Big Ten game. The 29 combined runs are the most in a Big Ten game that the Hawkeyes have played in, and the second most overall in program history (31 in a 26-5 victory over Iowa State last year).
The Hawkeyes have posted 27 runs combined in the two road wins at Northwestern. Iowa pushed across 16 runs total in in its first nine league games. In addition, the 27 runs mark the most over two games since the Hawkeyes scored 33 in back-to-back wins against Central Michigan (7-5) and Iowa State (26-5) on Feb. 18, 2012.
Iowa, which led 10-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth, moves to 24-15 overall and 4-7 in Big Ten play; Northwestern falls to 20-16 and 5-5 in league play. The Hawkeyes are 22-8 away from Iowa City this season.
"I am proud that we ended up getting out the win," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "It was frustrating that we were unable to end it in five innings and let them back in it. They are a quality ball club. They swing the bat and are going to take advantage of scoring opportunities. They proved why they can win games. Fortunately, we were able to hold them off."
Sophomore Megan Blank got things rolling early, launching her team-leading eighth home run to deep center in the first. Amy Letourneau evened up the score at 1-1 with a solo home run in the second.
Iowa blew it open in the third. After scoring nine in the fourth inning in the opening game of the series, the Hawkeyes plated seven runs on four hits in the third. Senior Bradi Wall opened the frame with a double to center, before Blank drew her fifth walk of the series. Kayla Massey singled up the middle to load the bases before junior Michelle Zoeller singled through the left side to plate the first run of the inning and second of the game for Iowa.
Junior Brianna Luna reached on a fielder's choice, and a Northwestern error allowed all runners to advance. Freshman Sammi Gyerman followed and coaxed a walk to push the lead to 4-1. Holly Hoffman stepped to the dish and laced a double to center to push across two more Hawkeye runs. Senior Johnnie Dowling slapped a grounder through the legs of the Northwestern third baseman to push across the seventh Iowa run. Following the sixth walk to Blank in her eighth plate appearance of the series, Massey coaxed a bases-loaded walk to score the seventh run of the frame and give Iowa an 8-1 advantage.
The visitors pushed their lead to 10-1 with two runs in the fourth. Gyerman and Hoffman walked before senior Ashley Akers singled up the middle to load the bases. Dowling hit one hard to short, who threw wide of the catcher, allowing junior Nikki Gentile and Gyerman to score.
Iowa came close to finishing the game off in the fifth, before Northwestern plated six runs in the bottom half to cut the Hawkeyes' advantage from nine runs to three at 10-7.
The visitors answered in the next frame, plating two runs in the top of the sixth. Hoffman and pinch hitter Whitney Repole were both hit-by-pitch before Dowling walked to load the bases. Wall, the national leader in hit-by-pitches, was plunked to push across a run. Blank followed and smacked a single to left to extend the Iowa lead to 12-7.
The Wildcats kept their momentum going at the plate going in the sixth, scoring five runs to even the score at 12-12.
In the top of the seventh, Iowa plated three runs to regain the lead at 15-12. Gyerman drew her third walk of the game and Hoffman singled to left to open the frame. Both runners advanced on a groundout by Akers. Dowling grounded sharply to third, and an error allowed Gyerman to score the go-ahead run. Following a strikeout and Blank's seventh walk of the series, Massey popped it up in the infield and it dropped, allowing two runs to score.
Micaela Whitney, who entered in relief in the sixth, allowed a two-run homer in the final frame, but closed it out for her third victory of the season (3-0). The freshman allowed two runs in an inning and a third.
"Mac (Micaela Whitney) came in and did a phenomenal job at the end," said Looper. "She gave up a couple runs, but faced their hottest hitter in the lineup and went right at her. It was huge for her as a freshman to step up and do that."
Massey started and took a no decision, allowing 11 earned runs on 12 hits in five and two-thirds.
Meghan Lamberth, who surrendered four runs in relief on Friday, started and took a no decision. She allowed seven runs (five earned) on seven hits in two innings. Friday's starter Amy Letourneau tossed three innings in relief, surrendering five runs (two earned) on three hits. Kristen Wood took the loss, allowing three runs in two innings.
Blank reached base in all five plate appearances for the second-straight game, finishing 2-for-2 with three walks to go along with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. In the opener, she matched her personal record and the school record with four walks. The sophomore is 3-for-3 with seven walks in the series, reaching base in all 10 plate appearances. She has reached base in the last 25 games.
"When Megan has had a chance to swing away, she has done a great job of zeroing and making solid contact," said Looper. "Megan is a competitor. That shows a lot of respect from Northwestern to treat her that way. It is frustrating when you are a good hitter, but that is part of the game."
Massey, Hoffman and Akers also posted multi-hit games. Massey finished 2-for-5 with a run, walk and RBI. Hoffman went a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and three runs. The runs and hits both mark season highs for the freshman. After notching three hits in the opener, Akers went 2-for-4 with a run.
"We had a lot of opportunities," said Looper. "We still left 14 runners on, many in key moments, but we are pleased with the final outcome. We have to control what we can, and we got away from that when we were up 10-1. We have to close the door on them."
The Hawkeyes will go for the series sweep as the teams conclude the set on Sunday at noon.
|Iowa 15, Northwestern 14||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|Iowa (24-15, 4-7)||1||0||7||2||0||2||3||15||11||1|
|Northwestern (20-16, 5-5)||0||1||0||0||6||5||2||14||14||5|
|W: Micaela Whitney (IOWA) 3-0|
|L: Kristen Wood (NW) 0-3|