Iowa softball pulls out late victory

BY TORK MASON | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa softball team got what senior catcher Liz Watkins called a "Hawkeye softball" win on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes came up with 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a 6-4 victory over Nebraska behind pitcher Chelsea Lyon. Lyon had a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but she surrendered 4 runs on 4 hits in the frame — coughing up what had been a 4-0 lead.

Iowa was nearly able to escape the inning with a 4-2 lead, but a drive off of the bat of Nebraska's Taylor Edwards sailed just past the glove of a diving Ashley Akers in left field. Edwards' double plated 2 more runs before Lyon took care of the second and third outs herself by cleanly fielding a pair of grounders.

Lyon said she didn't press when she got into that jam, and familiarity with Nebraska's pitchers was a reason.

"When they scored a couple runs, I just had to think 'We're ahead, we can do this, we got this,' " she said. "Then when they tied it up, it was a little hard. But I was confident in our offense because we saw both of their pitchers [on April 14], and we knew what [Nebraska's Ashley Hagemann] was going to throw."

The Broken Arrow, Okla., native said she stayed focused on her next pitch, because "you can only control yourself" in the circle.

The Hawkeyes had opportunities to put the game away throughout the afternoon. They stranded nine runners on base, including six in scoring position. But Watkins said there was a feeling on the bench that the missed opportunities wouldn't matter.

"We had runners on base in almost every inning," she said. "I told Chelsea I had complete confidence that we were going to win this game, and I think it fed in throughout the dugout. Everybody was like, 'Maybe we won't score this inning, but we're going to score in one of them.' "

Head coach Marla Looper said the team needs to focus on executing all the time, because pressure gets heaped on the Hawkeyes any time a team ties a game in the later innings.

"We just have to execute, whether it's a hit-and-run, a bunt-and-run, or a sacrifice bunt," the second-year head coach said. "Or defensively, making sure we're communicating — making sure we're not giving them opportunities that they haven't worked hard for. We don't like to hand things to them."

Watkins was able to deliver the final blow in the bottom of the sixth inning with a single to left field, which plated Megan Blank to bring the score to 6-4. Watkins came into Sunday's game riding a 1-for-16 slump over her last five games, but she said she felt confident when she stepped into the box.

"I try not to think about [the slump], because if I focus on not being able to produce like I have, it's just a downhill, big snowball effect," she said. "I just went up looking for my pitch. I knew she was going to throw me inside, so I tried to get my hands out. It wasn't the prettiest hit; however, it looks the same in the scorebook."

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