Softball hangs on to beat Iowa State

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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The 486 fans at Pearl Field on Wednesday evening were treated to an exciting win over a rival school and a pleasant 45-degree evening. And for no extra charge, they also got a brief lesson from their Hawkeyes on how not to play effective softball defense.

Iowa beat Iowa State, 4-3, after surviving an ugly fifth inning.

Sophomore pitcher Chelsea Lyon had given up just two hits in the game's first four innings, and the Cyclones hadn't put a runner on base in the third or fourth innings.

But things began to unravel after that.

With Iowa leading 2-0, Amandine Habben led off the fifth inning for Iowa State with a single up the middle. The next batter hit a grounder to shortstop Chelsey Carmody. In what looked like a perfect opportunity to swing a double play, Carmody flipped the ball to second baseman Katie Keim, who bobbled it as she tried to quickly throw to first. Instead of a double play, there were two runners on base.

Cyclone leadoff hitter Heidi Kidwell then hit a grounder straight at Keim, who was backpedaling as it reached her and dropped it, committing her second-straight error.

After the errors, the bases were loaded with nobody out. Lyon, who had been forcing pop outs with ease, walked the next two batters. Two runs walked across the plate to tie the game.

"We got a little antsy," Looper said. "We made a couple of crucial mistakes. You get yourself in a tough situation. Then Chelsea [Lyon] tried to be too perfect, and she struggled outside the zone."

When the trouble started, freshman pitcher Kayla Massey began to warm up. Looper had Massey enter the game after the second walk.

"I was thinking, 'I hope my stuff's working,' " she said. "I had to buckle down and focus on getting three outs."

She did just that.

Massey struck out the first batter she faced, then forced an infield fly and a grounder to second base to escape the inning with the score still tied.

Looper was impressed with Massey's cool head in getting out of that inning.

"That's a huge component to Kayla's game," the first-year coach said. "That's a huge confidence booster for her and the team."

Massey allowed two hits and one run in her three innings, striking out four batters. Lyon left the game after walking four batters, but she allowed just three hits and no earned runs.

On offense, Iowa got all the production it needed from the bottom half of its order, which Looper has said the team needs more of.

The team's four runs were driven in by its eighth and ninth hitters — Jenny Schuelke and Michelle Zoeller.

After a hot start to the season, Schuelke's batting average fell to .198 before Wednesday's game. The senior showed signs of getting back on track, however, when she launched a second-inning pitch over the center field fence for a three-run homer.

"I was looking to protect at the plate, and she just gave me a good one down the middle," she said.

The winning run came when Zoeller sent catcher Liz Watkins across the plate with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie.

"It's nice to get some production down at the bottom of the lineup," Looper said. "A few from the top were struggling today, so it was huge. We talk about any player in the lineup is going to get a chance to win a game for us, and [Schuelke and Zoeller] gave us that opportunity today."

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