Iowa Wins 10-inning Marathon Game, 1-0, over Illinois to Sweep Series

Courtesy: University of Iowa Athletics

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By James Steward

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It took three hours and 12 minutes and there were 375 pitches thrown before the University of Iowa softball team got a bases loaded walk from freshman Melanie Gladden to give the Hawkeyes the 1-0 victory and series sweep over Illinois on Sunday afternoon at Pearl Field.

"I was proud of our team for sticking in there and battling," said UI head coach Marla Looper. "Offensively, we didn't take advantage of some opportunities early and defensively, Chelsea did a nice job on the mound and our defense played phenomenal behind her. You just hang in there until you get a run across the plate."

The three-game sweep improves Iowa's record to 14-17 on the season and 4-2 in Big Ten play, while Illinois falls to 16-14 overall and 2-4 in conference action.

Senior Katie Keim got things started for the Hawkeyes in the bottom of the 10th inning, drawing a bases loaded walk off of Illinois starter Pepper Gay. Senior Liz Watkins and junior Bradi Wall followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases with no outs.

After Gay struck out Brianna Luna swinging for the first out of the inning, Gladden battled Gay to a full count before drawing an RBI base on ball to push Keim across the plate.

"It doesn't always have to be a fancy big hit or a blooper, sometimes that ball four works just as fine," said Looper.

Junior Chelsea Lyon went toe-to-toe with Gay in the circle. The Iowa starter scattered nine hits over 10 innings to notch her seventh win and fourth complete game shutout this season. Lyon had seven strikeouts and three walks in the game.

"Chelsea did a nice job, she limited her walks today," said Looper. "She kept pounding the zone and forced them to put the ball into play. There were a couple of times they got a hold of them, but our defense either stopped them, made great plays on aggressive base-running or made great diving catches."

Sophomore Malloree Grove paced the Hawkeyes offensively, going 2-for-4 to notch her second multi-hit game of the season. Five other Iowa players accounted for one hit.

Gay suffered the loss for the Fighting Illini, allowing seven hits over 9.1 innings. She had six strikeouts, but issued eight walks to fall to 11-6 on the year. The junior finished the day throwing 208 pitches.

Both teams had opportunities to score throughout the game, specifically in the latter innings.

The Hawkeyes put together their best scoring threat in the bottom of the eighth inning. Keim and Watkins drew one-out walks to put two runners on before Wall walked to load the bases. Gay got out of the jam, however, by striking out Luna and getting Gladden to fly out to right field.

The Fighting Illini returned the feat, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth. Stephanie Cuevas doubled into the right centerfield gap to start the rally before Jami Schkade singled to left field to put two runners on. Following a walk to Nikki Simpson to load the bases, Wall ended the threat with a diving stop and a flip from her stomach to Blank at second to end the threat.

Iowa returns to action Wednesday night, hosting Drake at 6 p.m. at Pearl Field.

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