Iowa softball sweeps Spartans

BY JON LINDER | APRIL 20, 2009 7:30 AM

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The two games of Iowa’s double-header with Michigan State on April 18 could not have ended on more contrasting terms.

The Hawkeyes (35-11, 7-5) beat the Spartans 8-0 in six innings on the run rule in Game One, before treating the 706 fans in attendance at Pearl Field to a 4-3 extra-inning thriller in Game Two.

“It’s exciting to score a lot of runs, but it’s also fun to get into games like this second one,” senior pitcher Brittany Weil said. “These are the kind of games we’re going to need to win as we go ahead.”

Iowa jumped to an early lead in the first game on a string of clutch two-out at-bats. Senior Colleen McGlaughlin started off the hitting with a single. Junior Katie Brown drove McGlaughlin in two batters later with a two-out RBI single after freshman Liz Watkins drew a walk.

Iowa extended the lead to 4-0 by plating one run in each of the next three innings on two-out hits by Lindsey Digmann, Katie Keim, and Watkins. The Hawkeyes stranded runners through some questionable baserunning in the third and fourth innings, when Keim and Watkins were both thrown out trying to steal second.

The Hawkeyes closed the door on Game One with a Spartan error on a pop-up by Brown and another Keim RBI in the fifth. The run rule went into effect on Missy Mazur’s RBI double in the sixth that pushed the score to 8-0.

Weil took the win, throwing her 20th complete game of the season and collecting nine strikeouts while allowing just three hits.

“We always want to be in control of the game,” head coach Gayle Blevins said. “We were in control of the first game, and then Michigan State really challenged us a lot in Game Two.”

The Spartans struck first in the second game on sophomore Jessica Brocamonte’s two-RBI double in the first inning off Iowa pitcher Amanda Zust. Brown responded with an RBI single for Iowa in the bottom of the first to pull within 2-1.

Zust continued to struggle throughout the afternoon, but she was aided by a number of impressive defensive plays, including a running catch in foul territory by McGlaughlin in the third and Keim’s leaping snag of a chopper to third in the top of the fourth.

Iowa tied the game at 2-2 with Mazur’s RBI single in the fourth. Zust then walked in a run in the following inning after walking Brocamonte to load the bases. Weil then came on in relief and struck out Ali Grant to end the inning. The strikeout was Weil’s 1,000th of her career, making her the first at Iowa and the eighth player in Big Ten history to reach the milestone.

McGlaughlin doubled in the sixth and tied the game at 3-3 on a Watkins sacrifice bunt that was dropped at first base.

The Hawkeyes had a prime opportunity to end the game in the eighth after an intentional walk of Brown loaded the bases with one out. Mazur struck out after going ahead in the count 3-0, and Erin Riemersma followed with a groundout to end the inning and momentarily keep the Spartans’ hopes alive.

Two innings later, Brown was intentionally walked for the second straight at-bat to load the bases for Mazur once again. The freshman capitalized on her chance at redemption by lining a walk-off RBI single through the left side.

“The second time around, I knew I had to take advantage,” she said. “They pretty much gave me a second opportunity to get my job done, and I did.”

Weil was superb in 51⁄3 innings of relief, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out eight of the 18 batters she faced and picking up her 19th win of the season.

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