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Iowa, UNI split softball doubleheader

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | APRIL 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa softball team's double-header with Northern Iowa featured pitching duels until the late innings of each game.

Northern Iowa won the first, 4-3, on a rally in the international tiebreaker in the eighth inning. Iowa ripped off a 7-run rally in the sixth inning of the nightcap to capture a 7-0 shutout.

"I wish we could have done it earlier and not waited so long," head coach Marla Looper said. "I'll take [a rally] at any point, but I wish we did it earlier."

The Hawkeyes scored early in the first game of the double-header. Leadoff batter Johnnie Dowling was hit by the first pitch of the game, then advanced to third on a throwing error. She scored on a Megan Blank sacrifice fly.

But that was the Hawkeyes' only run until the bottom of the seventh. In the meantime, Panther right fielder Leah Embrey hit a 2-run shot over the right-field fence to put Northern Iowa up 2-1 in the fourth.

The next three innings passed uneventfully until Ashley Akers took a trip around the bases that was similar to Dowling's six innings earlier. The speedy left fielder walked on four pitches and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and wild pitch.

The inning looked promising for the Hawkeyes — Akers scored on a hard-hit Bradi Wall single to right field that tied the game, 2-2. The Canadian native was replaced by pinch-runner Sydney Reynolds, and Blank hit another single to bring Reynolds around.

But Reynolds misstepped and was tagged out only a couple feet away from the bag as she rounded second. Katie Keim was robbed on a screaming right-field line drive to end the inning.

The game moved into a international tie-breaker inning; the player who was last called out returns to second base as a runner to start the inning. The Panthers scored two runs during this modified inning; Iowa only scored one and lost.

"Baserunning is a complete controllable — the only time it's not is when someone sticks her foot out there and trips you," Looper said. "It's unfortunate because we killed our own momentum in that moment."

The second game was even more of a pitchers' duel and remained scoreless through 6 1/2 innings, but a late Hawkeye rally forced dominant UNI pitcher Jessica Severinsen out of the game.

Wall capitalized on a Panther fielding error to get on base for the fourth time of the night, and she was brought home by a Blank stand-up triple. Katie Keim brought Blank her home.

"The whole part of this game is you have to like the pressure of a late-inning opportunity," Blank said. "I try to stay as relaxed as possible."

This time, Iowa maintained the momentum it gained from Blank's RBI three-bagger.

A bizarre combination of two wild pitches, singles from Liz Watkins and Melanie Gladden, a hit batter, a fielder's choice, a throwing error, and a stolen base resulted in 5 more runs and gave the Hawkeyes 7 in the sixth inning.

Wall, who had started the rally, ended it with a ground-out.

"Coach Looper has told us to be as focused as we can," Wall said. "If there's the odd time that you have to step up, you just take a deep breath and get right back in there, because you're always focused."

Follow DI softball reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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