Softball's furious rally falls short

BY JORDAN HANSEN | MAY 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Even an 8-run sixth inning — which included two long balls from Megan Blank — wasn’t enough for Iowa to get win number 100 for head coach Marla Looper.

Normally, the rally would have put the Hawkeyes (15-26-1) up by a large margin, but the lack of offense prior to that inning, combined with 7 earned runs given up by senior starting pitcher Kayla Massey and two errors had already spotted the Northern Iowa (26-18) a 9-0 lead, which the Panthers kept en route to a 9-8 win.

Massey was pulled after the 9th run crossed home in favor of reliever Shayla Starkenburg. The senior’s record now stands at 9-15; she gave up 12 hits.

Not much went right for the Hawkeyes in the first two innings as Massey loaded the bases before recording an out in the first. This turn of events led to Looper coming out of the dugout to talk to her.

“I talked to her and the defense about getting the ball down in the zone so we could get some ground-ball outs and get ourselves out of the inning,” Looper said. “We should not have given up so many runs — free runs — that they didn’t have to earn so much.”

Her words did not have the intended effect as Massey gave up a grand slam with one down in the first and then another home run an inning later.

After a quick two innings and no offense by the Hawks, Iowa was down 5-0 and looking for something positive. The Black and Gold found it in the sixth-inning rally, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Blank’s solo shot began a furious rally in which the Hawkeyes got all the way through the order and then some. Blank got up to bat again and send another over the right field wall, driving in 2 runs in the process.

“I didn’t really have much going on, I knew from my previous at-bats that I hit her well, and I was just trying to square one up,” Blank said. “If one’s inside, I’m going to turn on it hard, and I got it.”

If there was a bright spot for the Iowa pitching staff, it was Starkenburg. The freshman gave up no hits and struck out 4 in 1.1 innings.

“Knowing that I was going into the game, I wanted to give my team the best chance to come back and win,” she said. “I knew if I just held them that we were going to come out with the bats and make it a game.”

After Iowa retired three-straight batters in the top of the seventh, the Hawkeyes had a chance to keep their momentum but failed to do so.

Postgame, Looper stressed the importance of putting the game in the past and focusing on Iowa’s upcoming series with Ohio State.

“We have to get it back, plain and simple,” Looper said. “The nice thing about our team is that we’ve kind of been on a roller coaster, but we got short hills and valleys so that’s a positive unless you get carsick and motion sick pretty quick.

“We’ll bounce back, and get back at it tomorrow, and get back on the horse and ride it.”

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