By Anna Kayser
A Cinderella Story: Iowa Softball Edition ended with a pumpkin on May 12 as the Hawkeyes suffered an extra-inning loss to Northwestern, 2-1, in the Big Ten Tournament in Madison, Wisconsin.
The first attempt at playing the quarterfinal contest on May 11 resulted in an almost five-hour rain delay. Officials even resorted to using a helicopter to try to dry the field, but the game was ultimately pushed back a day, and Iowa and Northwestern got some extra hours of rest.
The extended down time set up the Hawkeyes and the Wildcats for a pitchers’ duel.
Designated as the visiting team, the Hawkeyes struck first. In the top of the first, following a one-out walk to center fielder Allie Wood, catcher Angela Schmiederer roped a triple down the left field line to plate her fellow senior.
Northwestern struck back in the second inning, tying the game on a string of hits against Hawkeye ace Allison Doocy.
Even with the early runs by both teams, high-stakes pitching and defense played the biggest roles. The score stayed knotted at 1 through seven and into extra innings.
In the bottom of the eighth with two on and nobody out, a long fly ball over the head of Cheyenne Pratt in left field ended the contest with a Northwestern walk-off.
For Iowa’s last game of the season, it was an impressive fight against the No. 4 seed of the tournament.
“You’re in championship play, you have to step on the field and know that it might go into extra innings,” head coach Marla Looper said. “They continued to fight all the way through.”
Doocy recorded 4 strikeouts in the contest, after a career-tying 15 against Ohio State in the tournament’s opener. The numbers were a testament to the adjustments the Northwestern offense made; the Wildcats recorded 7 hits off the Hawkeye ace.
The Iowa offense only collected 3 hits in the contest, coming from Schmiederer, Wood, and freshman Aralee Bogar. But the Hawkeyes also walked four times.
“We did start off hot, and that was our plan, to get in there and attack early,” Looper said. “Unfortunately, as we got through the next few times of the lineup, they settled down in the circle, and we started guessing, kind of putting ourselves in a tough spot. We had runners on multiple times, left too many on, but we gave ourselves a chance.”
Iowa has had many weak spots this season, both offensively and defensively.
However, one consistency has been the Hawkeyes’ ability to rise to their opponents, and that’s what they did on the defensive side against the tough Wildcat club.
“We had some outstanding defense [May 12]. Doocy gave us some good balls to play defense on, Bogar made a great diving play down the line,” Looper said. “We took care of the ball, and when you go out there and do what you do, you hope the best person wins on that day.”
The Hawkeyes finished off the season 21-32 overall, regular season and postseason combined.
The club will look different next year with the loss of cornerstone players Wood, Schmiederer, Pratt, and third baseman Sarah Kurtz.
Despite a rough ending to the regular season, the Hawkeyes’ revival in the tournament created some excitement.
“This team continues to fight every day, they continue to prove why they’re wearing the Black and Gold, and they’re proud of that,” Looper said, as the long roller coaster of the Iowa softball season ended.