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Softball falls to Northern Iowa after comeback

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Fans who left the Pearl Field confines early Wednesday night may have felt cheated after a seven-run fifth inning by Northern Iowa.

But the early departures missed out on some free softball when Iowa mounted a five-run sixth-inning comeback and later tied the game on a two-out home run by Chelsey Carmody in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

Still, the Hawkeyes (23-17) eventually fell to Northern Iowa (25-20), 8-7, courtesy of a RBI single from the Panthers and a quiet eighth inning at the plate.

“I was definitely happy that that happened,” said Carmody about her seventh home run of the season. “We needed a run, and I was going up there to do my job.”

The junior came to bat with nobody on and lined a ball to left center. While it initially looked like a sure hit off the bat, a strong wind helped the yellow orb bounce off and over the top of the fence for a homer.

In the eighth inning, though, Northern Iowa capitalized with two runners on; Kim Wachholder scored Mackenzie Daigh from second on a single. Iowa failed to garner a hit in the bottom of the frame.

And while some programs may have been satisfied with the late come back, the Hawkeyes donned a different attitude after the game.

A team probably on the wrong side of the bubble for an NCAA regional spot, Iowa could ill-afford its third-straight loss — especially one against a nonconference rival.

The most frustrating part of the game for Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins was the fifth inning.

“One of our game goals is to prevent the big inning,” Blevins said, defining “big” as three runs or more. “And obviously, they doubled that.”

The Panthers’ fifth inning featured two home runs, including a grand slam by Courtney Dunker. The other shot was a solo blast by Hannah Borschel — sister of Iowa NCAA wrestling champion Jay Borschel — that opened the inning.

Iowa managed to cut the lead to one in the bottom of the sixth, taking advantage of wildness by Panther pitcher Jaye Hutcheson. The Hawkeyes had nine base runners in the inning — five reached via a walk or hit by pitch.

“After they had their big inning, we didn’t stop fighting,” Iowa pitcher Amanda Zust said. “Our offense did a great job getting runs right away.”

Zust recorded a rough outing beginning in the fifth. She was pulled after five hitters only to re-enter two batters later for a struggling Chelsea Lyon.

Zust pitched all eight innings and gave up five earned runs and six walks.

Iowa will host No. 19 Ohio State for a two-game set this weekend, one of the Hawkeyes’ three series against ranked opponents in its last eight games.

Blevins said if her players wants to rebound, they’re going to need to improve in all three aspects of the game.

“We have to get our offense rolling again,” she said. “Our pitchers just have to be solid… [and] our defense has got to be a staple.”

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