Iowa softball splits weekend series against No. 1 Michigan


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The Iowa softball team toppled No. 1 Michigan on April 23, 4-2, and challenged the Wolverines again on Sunday but lost, 3-2.

Entering the weekend series in Ann Arbor, Mich., Iowa wasn't ranked with a record of 25-16, 7-3 in the Big Ten. Top-ranked Michigan boasted a record of 41-3 and 10-1 in the conference.

"Anytime you go in against the No. 1 team, you're going to be an underdog," head coach Marla Looper said. "We're not ranked, and a lot of people don't really know who we are. Kind of being unknown makes us the underdog, too, but we went in taking care of our own business and not worrying about any of that."

The Hawkeyes faced the giant without being intimidated — a feat they accomplished by maintaining an inward focus. As a team, the Hawkeyes never talked about Michigan's accomplishments because "the other team doesn't matter," Looper said.

Sophomore pitcher Chelsea Lyon led the Hawkeyes in the circle on April 23, allowing eight hits and two runs in seven innings.

"As soon as coach gave me the ball, she said, 'Let's get them, let's go do this,' and I knew it was something that I needed to get it done for my team," Lyon said. "I know that they're Michigan and that they're No. 1; you have to know that if you throw your pitches in the right spot, they're still not going to hit them."

Despite facing undefeated Michigan pitcher Stephanie Speierman in the first game and through four innings on Sunday, Iowa maintained its usual offensive strategy to get runners on base: Small ball.

The Hawkeyes took charge in the second inning on April 23 when catcher Liz Watkins led off with a walk. Jordan Goschie replaced her as a pinch runner and advanced to second on sacrifice bunt from Johnny Dowling. Goschie then reached third on a wild pitch.

After running the at-bat to a full count, Jenny Schuelke hit her fifth home run of the season on a high inside pitch from Speierman.

"We've just been working on taking each at-bat and each pitch at a time, so I was thinking about that," Schuelke said. "I was just looking to protect the plate, so I was going to swing at anything close."

On Sunday, the Hawkeyes employed the same small-ball strategy but came up short when Michigan, trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, scored three runs and took the game.

"Small ball has helped us through out the year and definitely this weekend," Looper said. "We got people on the base path and got them around. But you can't just assume two runs is going to beat Michigan, and [on Sunday] we didn't execute, and we left a lot of runners on, and that turned out bad for us."

Looper said the Hawkeyes made two "mental mistakes" that cost them the game in the seventh inning. The Wolverines loaded the bases with a double, single, and a walk, then scored on a sacrifice fly. Michigan's Lyndsay Doyle then grounded to Iowa third baseman Michelle Zoeller, and Zoeller hesitated looking at third before throwing to first. Doyle beat the throw and the bases were loaded once more.

With the bases loaded, a dribbler down the first base line was fielded by Stephanie Ochoa, who tried to tag the runner and missed instead of making the play at home, and the Wolverines tied the game. A single from Alycia Ryan drive in the third run and ended the game.

"I think we executed our offense really well on [April 23]," junior captain Katie Keim said. "That's how we play, and that's what we needed to do, and we came out with a big win. But [Sunday] we didn't get as many hits, and weren't as aggressive and that really came back against us in the end."

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