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Sammi Gyerman didn't even know what a cycle was.

The center fielder helped lead the Iowa softball team to a 15-7 mercy rule win over Illinois Friday night at Pearl Field in Iowa City.

Gyerman had perhaps the best game of her life, hitting for the cycle to go along with a career-high six RBI and three runs scored. In order, Gyerman hit a double, triple, home run, and single.

Iowa (12-28, 3-6 Big Ten) pushed across nine runs in the first inning on four hits, four walks and two hit by pitches. The Hawkeyes sent 13 batters to the plate.

"I didn't even know what the cycle was until tonight, I swear," Gyerman said. "My teammates started coming up to me, 'you're going to hit for the cycle.' I said, 'What's a cycle?'

"I think I've had games when I had the same mentality, but the outcome wasn't like this. The ball ended up going where it needed to go."

Illinois (12-21, 3-4) mounted a comeback with six runs in the top of the second and one in the third, but could not complete the turnaround.

The Hawkeyes also tacked on one run in the third and added five in the fourth.

Both teams combined for 23 hits. Illinois starter Jade Vecvanags failed to record an out, exiting the game after the first eight Iowa batters reached base.

The only time a runner didn't reach base was in the top of the fifth before the mercy rule went into effect as Iowa starting pitcher Shayla Starkenburg induced a groundout, strikeout and groundout to end the contest.

"Everyone was seeing the ball well and picking good pitches to swing at," Iowa shortstop Megan Blank said. "We barreled the ball up. Hitting is contagious. When you pass the bat down the line like that, good things are going to happen."

Blank finished 2-for-3 with two RBI to raise her team-leading batting average to .435. Kaitlyn Mularkey also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with an RBI. Whitney Repole and Sarah Kurtz each added two RBI.

Iowa batted around in the first and fourth frames.

"Everyone came up clutch today," Gyerman said. "That's what the coaches have been saying all year is for everyone to be clutch in timely situations, and that's what we did."

The Hawkeyes are close to the Illini in the Big Ten standings, so a victory to open the three-game weekend series is a nice start for the Black and Gold.

Coach Marla Looper's club is 16 games under the .500 mark, but not to meager competition. Iowa has played 14 games against opponents currently ranked in the top 25. Iowa is also 6-9 in games decided by one run or less, including a 6-4 win over No. 4 Michigan last weekend.

"They're still very positive and their heads are still up," Looper said. "They know our challenge is to continue to work the process and stay the course. As a staff, we don't talk outcome very much. Would we like to have the outcome? Heck yeah, and they would too because it makes you feel a little better. Coming out on the winning side makes you feel a little bit better."

Maybe Friday's result is the start of something.

"The challenge we face is to be consistent," Looper said. "Us coming out tonight and being as hot as they were, I think they were on a little bit of a mission. The game is in their hands when we step on to the field."

Reach Matt Cozzi at mcozzi@press-citizen.com or 319-887-5409 and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.

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