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Lyon's off-speed pitch dooms Penn State

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | MAY 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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In the top of the first inning, Iowa pitcher Chelsea Lyon faced Penn State's dangerous Lisa Akamine.

Lyon threw two strikes to the .241 hitter, and on the next offering, she delivered an off-speed pitch that floated over home plate. Akamine swung seconds before the ball crossed the plate, and Lyon recorded her first of five strikeouts for the day.

Lyon's changeup dominated against Penn State during the weekend series at Pearl Field and helped the Hawkeyes win, 1-0, on May 7. Although Iowa lost its second game on Sunday, 3-2, Lyon entered the game in relief of freshman Kayla Massey and allowed only two hits and no runs in 32⁄3 innings.

"[Lyon's] changeup was pretty nasty, and it was good to see that," head coach Marla Looper said. "But so were a lot of her other pitches. She was mixing the ball up, down, in and out, and doing a nice job of just hitting the umpire's zone. It keeps you in the ball game long enough to be able to get your offense to wake up and make things happen."

May 7's game remained scoreless until the bottom of the seventh inning, when freshman Michelle Zoeller crossed home plate, but Lyon's pitching made a big difference in keeping the Nittany Lions at bay.

Lyon threw 136 pitches on the weekend, 91 of them for strikes. The sophomore pitcher showed great control over her changeup after struggling with it for the majority of the season.

Lyon's fastball clocks in at about 62 mph, but her changeup dips down to 45 mph to appear as if it's floating over the plate. The Nittany Lions consistently swung early and chased the off-speed pitch far out of the strike zone, unable to make contact with it.

"At the beginning of the season, [the changeup] was really good, and then as the season progressed I lost it for a little bit," Lyon said. "But now, at the end, it's come back. The changeup is a great pitch, and it has been throughout the entire season when it works. It's a great feeling to know that I have it back and can use it in difficult counts again."

In the series' second game on Sunday, Massey struggled in the circle in the fourth inning when Penn State scored two runs on a pair of singles, a wild pitch, a walk, and an error. Lyon came in to relieve her with one out, and immediately forced Penn State's Kailyn Johnson to ground out and struck out Kasie Hatfield, using her change up for the third strike.

"Both the last two games, Chelsea's had outstanding control of her pitches," catcher Liz Watkins said. "It makes my job easy, because I can call a changeup with a 3-2 count knowing she's going to get it a strike."

For her last out in the series' second game, Lyon threw her deadly pitch again with a 1-2 count for a swinging strikeout. Lyon threw the changeup for strikes in five of her seven strikeouts, and with her 45 mph off-speed floater, she kept the Nittany Lions scoreless with only eight hits in the two games while she was in the circle.

"It was nice to see that pitch," Looper said. "I just wanted to see it more than once. When they can do it consistently, that's when I get really excited. Anyone can do it once, but when you can do it over and over, that's when you become a little bit more of a threat."


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