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Miscues cost softball in sweep by Badgers

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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It should have been a routine play.

With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Iowa pitcher Kayla Massey noticed Wisconsin runner Maggie Strange straying off second base at the end of a play. Head coach Marla Looper said Strange basically "fell asleep," as the Badger catcher was standing idly almost halfway between second and third base.

Massey turned to throw her out and end the inning for Wisconsin.

But she hesitated; rather than throw immediately to second basemen Katie Keim, Massey ran straight at Strange. By the time she finally threw to second base, the runner was safe.

What at the time seemed like an annoying but minor miscue quickly turned costly.

Wisconsin leftfielder Mary Massei hit the next pitch over the Pearl Field fence for a tie-breaking three-run homer that gave the Badgers, who entered the double-header 4-8 in Big Ten play, a 6-3 win and a sweep of Wednesday's double-header. They won the first game, 7-6.

"It's very frustrating," Massey about the missed chance at a crucial third out. "Still trying to get over it."

Looper said Massey needed to get the ball to a middle infielder immediately. The mistake was emblematic of a day full of miscues for the Hawkeyes, who followed up a near sweep of No. 1 Michigan last weekend with two losses to ninth-place Wisconsin. The losses dropped Iowa to 8-6 in the conference, 26-19 overall.

In the two games combined, the Hawkeyes walked eight batters and made three errors. They allowed a run to score on a wild throw in each game.

"We didn't take care of the ball the way we need to," Looper said. "When they put the ball in play, we have to take care of it. We let ourselves down by not taking care of the ball."

Unreliable offense also hurt Iowa. The Hawkeyes had a big first inning in the first game, scoring four runs in the opening frame. But after that, they sputtered. Second baseman Katie Keim hit a home run in each game — a solo shot that bounced off the top of the fence and then went out in the first game and a three-run homer that accounted for all of Iowa's runs in the night game — and Jenny Schuelke scored on a wild throw.

But junior Liz Watkins, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Week, went 0-for-5 on the day. She repeatedly flew out with runners on base, stranding five runners.

"I put the ball in play, I was just getting underneath pitches," she said. "With runners on, I need to put the ball on the ground so I give them a chance to move, or I need to be able to lift the ball over the fence. I wasn't doing either one today, so it's a letdown on my part."

Looper said Watkins needed to use better pitch selection.

"The scouting report's out. Liz is going to swing the bat well," the first-year head coach said. "So they're not going to give her anything good. She needs to do a better job of choosing the pitches she can hit hard versus the ones that are going to jam her up. Right now, she's not swinging at good pitches."

Massey said the team as a whole may have suffered a letdown after the team's performance against the Wolverines.

"When we played Michigan, we came out with everything to gain and nothing to lose," the freshman pitcher said. "Here, we didn't come out with the same intensity."


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