The first inning ended up being the most important.
In a game that decided the fate of the Cy-Hawk Series for the 2014-15 school year, the Iowa softball team (14-32) allowed three unearned runs and squandered a chance offensively in the first to ultimately lose 5-4 to Iowa State (21-17) Wednesday at Pearl Field in Iowa City.
With the win, Iowa State captures the Cy-Hawk Series, 15-11.
The Cyclones also won the series in 2013-14, meaning this is the first time in series history a school won in consecutive seasons.
"It's not just another team in the state, it's the other big state school," Iowa coach Marla Looper said. "If you bleed Black and Gold, you want to beat the Cyclones. If you're a Cyclone, you want to beat the Hawks. That's just the way it is. I know our girls wanted to come out and get it done, but there were times when we put a little pressure on ourselves."
An error by Iowa second baseman Claire Fritsch on an Aly Cappaert grounder eventually led to three runs for Iowa State in the top of the first inning, all unearned. Two batters later, Iowa starting pitcher Shayla Starkenburg recorded a strikeout for what should have been the third out, but the inning continued with two outs.
Starkenburg then allowed a walk followed by a 2-run single to Jorden Spendlove for a 3-0 deficit.
The first four batters reached base for the Hawkeyes in the bottom of the first, but then struck out back-to-back-to-back with runners on second and third to end the frame trailing 3-2.
"It's definitely important to strike early, that's what we've been talking about all season," Iowa center fielder Sammi Gyerman said. "Getting hits with runners in scoring position is so important. It bit us in the butt."
Senior shortstop Megan Blank paced the Hawkeyes going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Cheyenne Pratt was 2-for-3, while Gyerman finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Starkenburg threw seven innings in the circle, allowing five runs on six hits while walking five and striking out seven.
"When we get bigger swingers in the lineup, sometimes, we're not going to bunt them," Looper said of the first inning chance. "Hindsight, maybe I should have, but I wanted to give ourselves a chance to at least put the ball in play. We had the whole game left, I didn't want to squeeze one run in. Unfortunately, we squandered that opportunity."
With a 5-9 record in the Big Ten for 11th place, Iowa is leaving much to be desired.
Looper's club travels to Purdue and Minnesota each of the next two weekends before returning home May 1-3 for a three-game series against Northwestern to close out the regular season.
A midweek loss to Iowa State doesn't help carry any sort of push to the weekend.
Even Gyerman, a San Pedro, Calif., native, felt the weight of the rivalry defeat.
"Definitely it's a rivalry for me," Gyerman said. "Even though I'm not from the state of Iowa, I respect the rivalry that they have and I know how important it is to Hawkeye fans. We came in knowing that we needed to beat them like any rivalry. We just didn't maintain the Iowa softball way, and that hurt us."