Walk-off homer boosts softball
It was only fitting that after an up and down season full of disappointment that the last game of the season would end in heartbreak.
For about six innings, that was the case.
The Hawkeyes had managed only 9 hits through those first six frames but only 1 run to show for it.
Frustration was brewing, and head coach Marla Looper had argued several calls with the umpire.
As it had seemed all season, things were just not going the Hawkeyes’ way, and Looper would have to wait another game for win No. 100.
Then, the bottom of the seventh inning rolled around.
Ohio State had gone out in order in the top of the inning, and the Hawkeyes were up to bat. The first hitter, sophomore Whitney Repole, smacked a double into center field, and the Pearl Field crowd began to buzz.
The next batter up, senior Kayla Massey, worked the count and seemed as though she would have a decent chance of getting on base.
“A million thoughts were going through my mind, but I wanted to finish strong in my last game,” Massey said. “I think I hit decent during the game, and I felt pretty good about how I did.”
She struck out, and Iowa only had two outs to work with.
That left the batter with the worst average on the team, freshman Alyssa Navarro, to save the day. Looper decided to let Navarro swing at the first pitch and after a called strike, the coach signaled to bunt in hopes of advancing Repole to third.
“You can score a lot more ways with a runner on third than you can second; if we can get her to third, even a little bleeder would score a run if we could get Whitney safe at third,” Looper said. “I hesitated and gave her a pitch to see if she could drive it in.”
Looper’s gamble worked and just as Navarro was out at first, Repole stepped on third base.
Erin Erickson walked up to the plate. Hitting at just .218 clip on the season, the prospect of victory danced through her thoughts as she struggled to stay cool and composed.
“I literally told myself as I walked up to put the ball in play, and I really got into a good count, Erickson said. “The pitcher was kind of struggling, and I knew she was going to probably put something over the plate, and it felt good, and I swung.”
As she made contact, the ball lazily headed skyward to left field. As the ball rose higher and toward the wall, the crowd rose in a single motion, desperate to see the 3-2 win that they wanted.
“It was the perfect way to send out seniors out, and I think time and time again, we’ve actually had a couple close games where we have come back in the end — a lot of late-inning bursts,” Erickson said.
“This time, it really worked for us.”
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