Iowa walks off to avoid sweep against Northwestern

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Pearl Field finally got some action this past weekend. Iowa hosted its first Big Ten series of the year when No. 23 Northwestern brought its hot offense to town.

The series was adjusted to avoid the inclement weather on April 4, which meant a double-header on April 5 and the finale on Sunday. The Sun shone on both days, and it finally seemed like spring was here. The only thing that didn’t look good for Iowa was the outcome.

The Hawkeyes (10-18) lost the three-game series to Northwestern (22-9) 2-1. However, Iowa had the last laugh with a walk-off, 4-3 win to narrowly avoid the sweep on Sunday.

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“We got ourselves in a hole a little early and then struggled offensively early to manufacture anything even a base runner,” head coach Marla Looper said. “I’m proud of the kids and how they hung in there and persevered.”

After the double-header, fatigue might be a concern but starting pitcher Shayla Starkenburg insisted that it’s not an issue.

“Fatigue is never really a factor [in these games],” she said. “It’s all about who comes out and wants to win.”

But what was an issue is the number of walks that the Hawkeyes gave up on April 5. In the first two games, the team walked 12 batters while only walking five times themselves. Iowa calmed down in the finale by walking only three batters.

“Pitchers need to limit walks,” Looper said. “There were a couple that probably weren’t bad walks, but then we didn’t take care of the ball after that. When you put on 12 runners for free, it’s hard to win ball games that way.”

The walks might have been a result of trying to contain Northwestern’s high-powered offense. The Hawks held Northwestern to 7 hits or fewer in all three games.

Things got off to a shaky start on Sunday. Iowa began the game giving up a run in the top of the first inning, and all the attention on the other team’s offense may have led to the Hawkeyes forgetting about their own.

The Hawks finally found their bats in the fifth inning when Erin Erickson grabbed the team’s first hit with a single to left field. That started a rally and eventually sparked the offense for the walk-off win.

“My last couple games, I’ve been struggling to get on, and all I wanted to do was put the ball in play,” she said. “I’m happy I came through for the team. We kind of kept pecking away, and it worked for us in the end and [the walk-off] was great. Those don’t really happen too often, and we’ll take it any way we can.”

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