Illinois knocks Hawks out

BY JORDAN HANSEN | MAY 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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It was a bitter end to a disappointing season for the Iowa softball team.

After holding ninth-seed Illinois scoreless for six innings, the Fighting Illini’s bats exploded in the top of the seventh for 6 runs on 8 hits. Eighth-seeded Iowa could not get anything going in the bottom of the inning and lost 6-0.

The majority of the game was purely a pitcher’s duel, with Iowa senior Kayla Massey pitching the full game for the Hawkeyes.

Up until the frightful seventh inning, Massey had allowed 7 hits but otherwise did a good job of getting herself out of several jams and was credited with 7 strikeouts.

“As it should be, it’s disheartening that we’re done,” head coach Marla Looper said in a release.

It did not help that Massey got little help from the offense; Iowa only mustered 5 hits in the game. Junior Megan Blank, perhaps the best pure hitter on the team was 0-for-2 on the day with a walk, and no Hawk collected more than one hit.

In fact, Iowa only had one runner get to third in the game; Blank got on base on a walk and advanced to second on freshman Kaitlyn Mullarkey’s single. A wild pitch moved her to third, and it looked as if the Hawkeyes could score at least 1 run.

However, those hopes were quickly crushed; sophomore Whitney Repole struck out looking. Redshirt sophomore Holly Hoffman grounded out to end the sixth and squandered the Black and Gold’s best scoring chance on the evening.

The Hawkeyes, who finished 16-30-1, could not capitalize on their only opportunity to play in the postseason. It was a season that will go down in the books as a pure disappointment on an otherwise solid program, and the Hawks broke their 28-year streak of winning seasons.

As Iowa transitions into the off-season, it has quite a bit of work to do to become one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Finding a suitable replacement for Massey will be at the top of head coach Marla Looper’s to-do list.

Freshman pitcher Shayla Starkenburg could certainly be a candidate for No. 1 pitcher — she showed flashes of brilliance this season.

“It was a short weekend for us, and unfortunately, we’re going to miss our seniors Kayla, Brianna [Luna], and Michelle [Zoeller],” Looper said in a release. “We’re going to have to find people to replace them, which isn’t going to be easy."

Another Hawk to watch next season is Blank, who recently received All-Big-Ten honors and will looked upon to be the leader of a squad that certainly has potential to be a factor in the conference next season.

Illinois will face top-seeded Michigan at 4:30 p.m. today.

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