Iowa Softball Drops 2 to Northwestern
Courtesy: Iowa Athletics
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- No. 23 Northwestern topped the University of Iowa softball team twice at Pearl Field on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats (22-8, 5-3) recorded a 6-4 win in game one and a 4-1 victory in game two to solidify the series win over the Hawkeyes (9-18, 4-4).
Iowa dished out 14 free passes in the doubleheader with walks and hit by pitches. Five of which came around to score -- three in game one and two in game two.
"Defensively, we have to take care of the ball and our pitchers have to limit walks," head coach Marla Looper said. "There were a couple that weren't bad walks, but we didn't take care of the ball afterwards. But when you put on 14 runners on for free in two games, it's hard to win ball games. Good teams are going to take advantage of that."
Northwestern was the first to reach the scoring column in game one, scoring two runs in the top of the third. A leadoff single and stolen base for Emily Allard put a runner in scoring position for Marisa Bast who doubled her in from second. An Andrea DiPrima single followed to put runners on the corners, and an errant throw on a first-and-third play allowed the second Wildcat run to score.
The Hawkeyes answered in the bottom of the third, putting up two runs of their own on three hits. Holly Hoffman started the charge with a double to right center and moved up to third on a Brianna Luna bunt single. Luna swiped second base and Claire Fritsch walked, loading the bases for Iowa three-hole hitter Megan Blank who punched a single through the right side to earn two RBIs and knot the contest, 2-2.
The tie did not last long as the Wildcats put up a run in the top of the fourth. After putting two runners on base using a hit by pitch and a fielder's choice, Northwestern used a sacrifice bunt to move both into scoring position. An Allard RBI single broke the tie.
Northwestern's run production continued in the top of the fifth inning. A single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for the Wildcats. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score and a Paige Tonz double plated the next two, extending Northwestern's lead to 6-3.
Iowa manufactured a run in the bottom of the seventh when Luna drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on a Fritsch single and came around to score on a Blank single through the right side. But the comeback fell short as the Wildcats forced a strikeout and a pop out to end the game in their favor, 6-4.
Three Hawkeyes turned in multiple hit performances including Luna (2-for-3), Fritsch (2-for-3) and Blank (2-for-4). Blank collected all three of Iowa's RBIs.
Kayla Massey (5-10) took the loss in the circle. She allowed six runs -- five earned -- and six walks, but matched her season-high with seven strikeouts in her complete game appearance. Northwestern's Kristen Wood (11-3) was credited with the complete game win. She struck out a career-high 11 batters.
Following a scoreless first inning, Iowa strung together three hits for a run in the bottom of the second to gain an advantage in game two. Michelle Zoeller opened the frame with a single to left and moved into scoring position on an Alyssa Navarro sacrifice bunt. Holly Hoffman used a single to left to plate Zoeller in the RBI situation.
The Wildcats responded with a run in the top of the third inning to even the contest, 1-1. A walk and a sacrifice bunt put a runner in scoring position for Paige Tonz who tripled to drive in the run. Shortstop Megan Blank and third baseman Zoeller took care of ground balls to end the inning and strand Tonz at third.
The teams traded zeroes in the sixth but Northwestern added insurance runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead of Iowa. A walk and a pair of singles from Tonz and Emily Allard broke the tie in the fifth. In the sixth, a Brianna LeBeau single with two in scoring position plated a run. In the seventh, after an Allard single and a pair of errors put runners at second and third, Andrea DiPrima singled to left to push the final run across.
Brianna Luna and Claire Fritsch reached on a hit by pitch and a fielder's choice, respectively, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but the Wildcats recorded a fielder's choice for the final out and the win, 4-1.
Shayla Starkenburg (3-5) was tagged with the loss in the circle. She walked six and allowed four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in her complete game effort. Northwestern's Nicole Bond (3-0) picked up the complete game win in the circle. She held the Hawkeyes to one run on five hits and collected five strikeouts.
Recording hits for Iowa were Luna (1-for-3), Fritsch (1-for-4), Blank (1-for-2), Zoeller (1-for-3) and Hoffman (1-for-3). Hoffman drove in the lone Hawkeye run.
Iowa and Northwestern will meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT) for the series finale at Pearl Field.