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Softball's tourney run ends

BY JORDAN HANSEN | MAY 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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Coming into the postseason off a victory against Northwestern in the regular-season finale, Iowa head coach Marla Looper felt the win would give the team momentum as it headed into the tournament.

Turns out, she was right.

A come-from-behind 5-3 victory against No. 7 seed Rutgers on May 7 was followed by a 2-0 pitchers’ dual win over No. 2 seed Minnesota (which had outscored Iowa 25-0 in the regular-season series) a day later.

However, Iowa’s run ended in the semifinals with a 9-6 loss to No. 3 seed Nebraska. The Hawkeyes put up 3 runs in the fifth inning to pull within 3, but the comeback attempt fell short as they failed to score in the final two innings.

“It’s hard to end the way we did — it’s over, for the year, for us,” Looper said. “They continued to fight and claw and scrap until the end, and that’s what we’ve been known for this year.”

The Hawkeyes’ run was in part keyed by senior shortstop Megan Blank, who batted .545 during the three tournament games. She totaled six hits — three doubles, a triple, and two singles — with just 1 strikeout.

The four-time first-team All-Big Ten shortstop also is now the leader at Iowa in career batting average (.410), and she was named to the all-tournament team.

“To end my career on a note like this — it’s incredible,” Blank said. “I couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates and coaches.”

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Shayla Starkenburg was also named to the all-tournament team. She pitched full games in all three contests for Iowa, racked up 13 strikeouts and finished with a 4.00 ERA.

Her best work came against Minnesota, when she allowed just 2 hits, no runs, 4 hits, and 2 walks.

“I think that the biggest thing that was working today was keeping the ball down low and letting my defense work,” Starkenburg said after the May 8 game against Minnesota. “That’s what I did today.”

Starkenburg struggled against Nebraska a day later, giving up 9 earned runs and 6 walks as Iowa’s run fizzled out.

The Hawkeyes finish the season 19-40; they will lose only their shortstop from this year’s squad, but the beloved Blank will not be easy to replace.

Redshirt sophomore Sammi Gyerman is the most likely candidate and finished the season with a .326 batting average. Freshman Allie Wood flashed power this season, though the pair combined to go 3-for-17 during the tournament.

Junior catcher Holly Hoffman was effective during the tournament, going 2-for-4 with an RBI in the finale with the Cornhuskers.

“This whole weekend has been awesome,” she said. “We didn’t want to lose in the first round because Megan deserved more than that, and the team worked hard. There was no moment that we felt that we were going to lose the game.

“It was just really important to send off Megan on a good note.”

Follow @JordyHansen for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa softball team.


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