Dowling's on-base ability an asset for Iowa softball


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Iowa second baseman Bradi Wall pulled teammate Johnnie Dowling aside before she left the dugout in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"Have a good at-bat," she said.

Dowling had just dropped a routine pop fly in center field, allowing Wisconsin to score another run and extend its lead to 5-3 in the top of the seventh.

The leadoff hitter stepped into the batters' box with one out. Dowling hadn't gotten a hit all game and was struggling in the field as well; she had registered Iowa's only error, missed a cutoff, and been involved in two collisions with teammates.

Dowling swung and slapped a single down the left-field line.

"She's a fighter, she's a battler," head coach Marla Looper said. "… When she got up to bat, she knew we needed a base runner. She just needed to put the ball in play and allow herself to get on."

The single started a rally. Ashley Akers advanced Dowling with a sacrifice bunt, Megan Blank moved her to third with an infield hit, and Liz Watkins was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Wall came up to bat with the bases full and two outs. The Saskatchewan, Canada, native hit the ball straight to Wisconsin shortstop Stephanie Peace, but Dowling's feet were faster than Peace's arm; Dowling slid into home to beat the throw and trim the deficit to one.

"It was great just to see Johnnie get on," Wall said. "I knew she could do it, and as soon as she got on, I realized, 'All right, we can do this.' It was perfect. I wanted the bat. I wanted it in my hands."

Iowa couldn't complete the rally — Katie Keim hit a chopper back to Badger pitcher Cassandra Darrah — but the late offense spurred faith in the Hawkeye offense from within the team.

"We kept the momentum going from my single," Dowling said. "We couldn't quite pull out all the hits that we needed, but we got runners moving around, and that's good. In those situations, your only hope is to really build it as a team, and that really does make your offense better for the next time."

Wall said Dowling's single and base-running gave her the momentum she needed to get her RBI single.

Dowling's .447 on-base percentage leads the team, and Looper said the junior's ability to spark the offense has transformed her into an effective — and dangerous — leadoff hitter.

Dowling finished 5-for-11 over the three-game series with the Badger. She reached base in four of her seven tries in the first two games.

The center fielder started the first game by legging out an infield single and stealing second. Dowling got another hit in the third, but she was caught stealing by Wisconsin catcher Maggie Strange.

Dowling beat out a throw late in the fourth inning of the second game to get a hit and reached base in the seventh off a single. She snuck into second while every Badger on the infield had her back turned.

"Our game is not to just stand at first and wait for someone to hit us around," Looper said. "When Johnnie's on, we've got to use her speed. We took advantage of that, and they threw her out, but we can't not run Johnnie … More often than not, Johnnie's going to be safe at second, or safe at third — or safe any time she runs."

Follow DI softball reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.

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