Iowa softball players put away home-town rivals


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In the top of the fourth inning, a fastball off the bat of Iowa State's Erin Johnson looked as if it would hit the turf between right and center field, but Iowa rightfielder Johnny Dowling sprinted and made a shoestring catch just before it hit the grass. Dowling trotted back toward the dugout smiling a little wider than usual — she had just caught her best friend's line drive.

The Iowa softball team topped Iowa State, 4-3, on Wednesday with several Hawkeyes playing against former teammates and high-school rivals. Iowa tallied its 25th season win, running its record to 25-16.

"I snagged that hit from her, but I knew that once she got up to her next at bat she was going to give me a run for my money again," Dowling said.

She was proved correct when Johnson came to the plate for her next at-bat. The Cyclone hit the ball off the right-field fence for a triple, exacting some revenge on her former teammate.

The bleachers of Pearl Field showed a good mix of black and gold and cardinal and red as avid softball fans and passionate rivals watched the low-scoring small-ball game between the in-state competitors.

"It's fun to have this rivalry," Hawkeye head coach Marla Looper said. "Especially in the state of Iowa where there are predominantly amateur athletics, and everyone's either a Cyclone or a Hawkeye."

Iowa gathered six hits throughout the game, and Iowa State tallied only four. In the bleachers, the fans sat anxious and antsy watching the intense matchup that Dowling described as a pitchers' game.

Twenty of the 21 outs made by the Hawkeye defense were made in the infield as Iowa's pitching staff of Chelsea Lyon, who pitched the first four innings, and Kayla Massey, who finished the game, forced their opponents to repeatedly pop out or ground out.

To start the game, Iowa put down the Cyclone's offense without a hit, and Iowa State reciprocated by retiring the first three Hawkeyes in a row. In the top of the second inning, the Cyclones threatened the Hawkeyes by loading the bases with two outs, but then popped out to end the inning.

But in the bottom of the second inning, the Hawkeyes were able to lift the ball past the infielders, which played a large role in clinching the win from their rivals. Sophomore left fielder Jenny Schuelke stepped up to bat with two runners on. She ran the pitch count up and, facing a full count, hit a three-run homer straight over her former teammate — Heidi Kidwell — in center field.

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

Schuelke bats in the bottom of the lineup, where the Hawkeyes have been struggling lately, and hitting her fourth home run of the season over her former teammate's head was a satisfying way to break out of a slump, she said.

"This rivalry makes the game that much more exciting because girls from both teams know each other," Dowling said. "There are numerous girls on that team that I grew up playing in high school against. We want to come out and compete as hard as we can against each other because it makes it fun."

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