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Hawkeye softball struggles continue, team loses both in double-header

BY NICK DELAQUILA | APRIL 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa softball dropped both games of a double-header Tuesday night against Illinois, watching its record fall to 24-21 overall, 4-13 in conference play. It was Iowa’s sixth-straight loss, and 3 runs decided both games.

The Illini took the first game of the double-header, 8-5, after jumping out on top of the Hawkeyes early on. Illinois sent 11 batters to the plate in the top half of the second inning, scoring all of its runs and forcing starting pitcher Kayla Massey to the bench after only getting through 1⅓ innings.

The big inning came right after the Hawkeyes jumped out on top 2-0 thanks to sophomore shortstop Megan Blank. She drilled the ball to right center for a 2-run shot, her 11th of the year. She later added an RBI double in the bottom half of the fifth to add to her team-leading RBI number. Her 56 RBIs are good for second in the Big Ten this season. Blank is now just 5 shy of the school record set in 1997 by Debbie Bilbao.

After Massey gave up 8 runs in the second inning, freshman pitcher Micaela Whitney came in and shut down the Illini the rest of the way. Whitney, who came in during the second inning, pitched 5⅔ scoreless innings, holding Illinois to just 3 hits with 6 strikeouts.

“[Whitney] did a nice job of changing momentum,” Iowa softball coach Marla Looper said. “She went right at the hitters, and that’s what we talk to the pitchers about every day.

In the second game, she picked up right where she left off, holding the Illini scoreless through two. But the Illini finally figured Whitney out and put up 3 runs in the third inning. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom half of the third, the Hawkeyes picked up 2 of their own courtesy of designated player Kayla Massey’s RBI single and an ensuing sacrifice fly from first basemen Brianna Luna.

The score stayed that way until the top half of the sixth inning, when the Illini took the lead for good with 3 more runs. Illinois wound up winning the game, 6-3, improving to 16-25 overall, 6-11 in the Big Ten. The wins gave the Illini five in a row.

Heading in the opposite direction are the struggling Hawkeyes — who are just 2-9 at Pearl Field. The struggles cannot hide Blank’s performance as of late, although she can’t seem to figure out this season’s home struggles.

“I don’t think anyone can figure it out right now. Ideally, you want to play at home and defend your home turf,” she said. “You don’t want anyone to take that from you.”

It might be a blessing in disguise to get away from Iowa City for the next game. The Hawkeyes will have just one day to prepare for their next opponent.

“You have to have amnesia; that’s exactly what we have to do,” Looper said. “You have to make the most of the opportunities that you have.”

Iowa’s next game will be in Cedar Falls — the team will pay a visit to Northern Iowa. The key to victory may be easier than one might think.

“We need to remember why we play the game,” Whitney said. “We have to remind ourselves that it is fun.”


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