By James Geerdes
The weather in Champaign, Illinois, was just right this past weekend. It was 60s and sunny for the three games Iowa softball played. Despite the beautiful weather, though, Iowa did not play beautiful softball — the Illini took three games from the Hawkeyes.
The first game was not pretty by any means for Iowa. Starting pitcher Allison Doocy, who has been Iowa’s gem this season, pitched just 4 innings before head coach Marla Looper reached into her bullpen.
An Illini 4-run third inning behind 5 hits propelled the home team in front of the Hawkeyes, where it stayed.
Iowa’s lone run came when freshman Aralee Bogar knocked a single up the middle and advanced to second on a ground out. Bogar scored when the Illini shortstop misplayed a ball off the bat of Devin Cantu.
Illinois tagged on 2 more runs in the bottom of the fourth off Doocy. Kenzie Ihle took over duties in the circle and pitched two innings, allowing 1 run. Illinois walked off the field with a 7-1 victory over the Hawkeyes in the series opener.
“We were lethargic defensively and in the box,” Looper said in a release. “Doocy did a nice job, but we hurt ourselves defensively. We have to be better at attacking the game. We have to be in control of us better.”
Game 2 for Iowa saw a much more responsive and competitive Hawkeye unit. The Hawkeyes jumped out front early and scored 2 runs in the top of the third inning.
Doocy took to the circle again, but her stay was cut short when the Illini scored 4 runs in the fourth inning, only one earned. Freshman Lauren Shaw took over with one out left in the fourth and kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance.
Down, 4-2, Iowa evened the score in the top of the sixth with 2 runs. McKenzie Schneider knocked a triple to score Alex Rath and Angela Schmiederer.
Iowa knocked in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning as well. An Illinois error plated Bogar to put the Hawkeyes up, 5-4. But Illinois responded in its half of the inning, sending the game into extra innings with an infield single, a steal, and a single up the middle for an RBI.
Iowa was able to load the bases with one out in the top of the eighth inning but failed to bring a runner home. Illinois walked it off in the bottom half with an infield single, a steal, a wild pitch, and another single.
“Our offense did a nice job of continuing to battle,” Looper said in a release. “Unfortunately, we put ourselves in a hole by not being able to play defense. We shouldn’t have as many errors as we do hits. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I’m proud that the offense was able to bear down and stay in the game, but we have to keep fighting.”
The third game had another offensive spark from the Hawkeyes. With Lauren Shaw earning the start in the circle, Iowa put up 3 runs in the second, 2 in the fifth, and 2 in the seventh.
Illinois scored 1 in the first inning, but Iowa gave the game away in the fourth inning. The Hawkeyes amassed 4 errors in the inning, and Illinois plated eight runners. Erin Riding took over pitching duties after 2.2 innings.
Looper and her team now own an eight-game losing streak, dating back to April 10. With only seven games left in the regular season, the Hawkeyes hope that they can regain some crucial momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament.