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Iowa softball drops two in conference-opening weekend

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa softball team (11-17, 1-2 Big Ten) was plagued by errors and poor defense in a 5-4 loss in the final contest of a three-game series against Wisconsin on Sunday.

Iowa was unable to take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities and didn't get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Hawkeyes were down, 4-0, before Megan Blank and Bradi Wall reached base on singles. Senior captain Katie Keim stepped up to the plate against Wisconsin ace Cassandra Darrah and smashed a home run to left field to make it 4-3. Keim leads the team in home runs with 4, which equals her total from last season.

"[Darrah] had been throwing me changeups," Keim said. "But I'd like to say 100 percent of that goes to my teammates Sam [Valentine] and Sydney [Reynolds]. They actually called the pitch ahead of time, so I was able to wait on it and hit."

Iowa had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the seventh for Keim. She wasn't able to muster up the power she showed in the previous inning, though, and grounded out to end the game.

Darrah pitched complete games in all three contests. The Corydon, Iowa, native threw 319 pitches over the weekend, recording 10 strikeouts and 5 earned runs in 21 innings.

Iowa head coach Marla Looper lauded the opposing pitcher for her performance and said she wasn't surprised the hurler never left a game despite prolonged use.

"We didn't really figure her out and make them go to their bullpen," Looper said. "I didn't expect anything different today, when we hadn't knocked her out of the ballgame by hitting too much or putting runs on the board. We never put them on their heels enough for them to make that change."

Iowa traded wins with the Badgers during a conference-opening double-header on March 24. Wisconsin took the first game from Iowa with a third-inning RBI triple by Mary Massei, and held on to win 1-0.

The nightcap was a back-and-forth battle, with Iowa stealing the lead from Wisconsin twice to get the 4-3 win.

True freshman Tor Hawley pinch-hit in the bottom of the sixth to record her first hit as Hawkeye, a 2-run triple to even the score at 3-3. Liz Watkins stepped up to bat with the bases loaded and was hit by Darrah to push the winning run across the plate.

Wisconsin forced the Black and Gold to use both of their pitchers in the final contest. Starter Chelsea Lyon was pulled in favor of Kayla Massey after giving up 4 runs through five innings. Lyon returned in the seventh to finish the game, though; she took the loss for Iowa, dropping her record 5-10 on the season.

Lyon said her nerves weren't affected by being pulled and reinserted.

"If anything, it will help," Lyon said. "Once I got taken out, I had to root for Kayla, root for the team still, and soon as I went in, it was back into game mode. You know the batters' tendencies from facing them the previous day, but it's basically where you put the pitches. If you put the pitches where you want to put them, then they're going to hit it where you want them to hit it."

Follow DI softball reporter Ben Ross on Twitter.


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