Hawkeye softball team loses Big Ten Tournament opening

BY CODY GOODWIN | MAY 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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A 6-run fifth inning effectively put to rest any notion that the Iowa softball team was going to make a run at a Big Ten Tournament title.

The eighth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes used that inning to overtake what was then a 4-1 Iowa lead. The Scarlet and Grey added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to complete an 8-4 first-round victory over the ninth-seeded Black and Gold.

Iowa started off the game with a 2-run first-inning and led 4-1 after the fourth. Megan Blank and Bradi Wall each produced an RBI, and Kayla Massey knocked in two more, which gave the Hawkeyes their lead. The effort also helped send Ohio State starting pitcher Alex DiDomenico to the bench after the fourth-inning.

But in Iowa’s final three innings, the offense didn’t pose much of a threat. Buckeye relief pitcher Melanie Nichols faced just 12 Black and Gold batters in the final three innings and surrendered only one hit.

The Ohio State bats, which were mostly dormant through the first four innings of play, came alive in the bottom of the fifth frame. Massey allowed the Buckeyes to load the bases with just one out to begin the inning.

Massey then walked in 2 runs — making the score 4-3, Iowa — before Ohio State second-basemen Shelby Pickett sent a grand slam over the wall to give the Buckeyes the lead for good.

“Shelby has been hitting great for us the last couple of weeks, and so I was not surprised by her performance today,” Ohio State softball coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said in a release. “Their pitcher was struggling to throw strikes and we told our hitters that the pressure was on her, so we were looking for a good pitch to drive. We aren’t worried about playing a certain opponent. We are trying to be the best we can be every time we take the field, and today things worked out for us.”

Coaches and members of the Iowa softball team refused to comment following the game.

Iowa’s struggles were predominately the same issues they had been trying to fix for most of the season. More specifically, Iowa left 9 more base runners stranded, leaving plenty of potential runs off the board.

The Hawkeyes, though they scored two in the first, left two other runners on base. The Hawkeyes ended their frame of the second-inning scoreless with three more stranded runners.

The Black and Gold even had a chance for a rally in the sixth-inning, but they left both center fielder Johnnie Dowling and second-basemen Wall on the bases — both of whom were in scoring position, no less.

Ohio State’s victory vaults it into today’s quarterfinals, where it will face top-seeded Michigan. The Wolverines, who finished their regular season with a 20-2 mark in Big Ten play, have won eight of their last 10 entering the league tournament. In the games prior, Michigan rattled off 18 victories in a row.

The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, will now wait for their NCAA Tournament fate. Their current RPI, as of this past week, sits at 33. The Division I Selection Show will take place at 9 p.m. May 12 on ESPNU.

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