Recapping Iowa softball's three-game series against the No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats
With Big Ten play underway, the Iowa Hawkeyes softball team hosted its first home stand of the season last weekend against the No. 20 Northwestern Wildcats.
Though the first two games of the series did not go in the Hawkeyes’ favor, their walk-off win in the third game gave them their second win over a top-25 opponent this season.
"We play teams like UCLA, Texas, Oregon State, etc., to see how we match up," Hawkeyes' head coach Renee Gillispie said. "I don't think that our team has been given a lot of credit or support considering how good we are and what we are capable of doing. So, we are just going to continue to fight and keep that chip on our shoulders as we keep trying to get into the top-25."
The following breakdown shows how Iowa was able to overcome a rough start to get itself back on track:
Game One: Hawkeyes' defense collapses in extra innings
Despite keeping things close for much of the game, Northwestern used a big 10th inning to get the statement-making 8-3 win over Iowa.
By the conclusion of the seventh inning, the teams were deadlocked at two runs apiece, setting up the Hawkeyes' sixth game where extra innings would determine the victor.
Northwestern struck first in the eighth, but Iowa responded after a sac fly from senior outfielder Nia Carter brought a runner home.
Then after both teams went scoreless in the ninth inning, the Wildcats caught a second wind in the 10th where they scored five runs.
Citing her team's defensive miscues as the biggest reason for their loss, Gillispie said that there was not much help behind the pitcher.
"Breanna [Vasquez] already had 170 pitches under her belt, so we had to make a pitching change," Gillispie said. "Denali [Loecker] did a good job, we just did not play defense behind her. She was getting groundballs for us, but we had a couple of errors behind her. That was pretty much the difference of that last inning."
Game Two: Hawkeyes are unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position
For just the second time this season, Iowa was shut out, helping Northwestern to earn the 5-0 win.
For much of the game, Northwestern led 1-0, but in the seventh inning, their offense exploded with four runs.
It was a difficult overall outing for Iowa as it had just three hits but committed five errors. It also did not help that the Hawkeyes left several runners stranded.
Knowing that they could play much better than they did, junior infielder Sammy Diaz said that they had to do a better job of getting hits with runners on base.
"I think we had 12 runners left on base," Diaz said. "We win most of our games when we are getting those clutch hits with runners on base, but we lacked that in the second game."
Game Three: Hawkeyes avoid the sweep after walk-off victory
Iowa's 6-5 win came in dramatic fashion.
Though Northwestern had been held scoreless for the first three innings, they rattled off six runs over the next three to tie the game at five heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
With two runners on base, Iowa's sophomore catcher Tristin Doster had the play of the game after hitting a single to left field which resulted in a runner coming home.
Following the walk-off victory, Doster said that the play was a culmination of the work that she and her teammates had put in before the game.
"I could tell that everyone was super excited," Doster said. "I was glad that we could have a team win because obviously, Northwestern is a tough one to beat. I think that our practice before the game got us ready for their pitching and the high-pressure situation that I was put into."
After their brief slate of home games, the Hawkeyes will be back on the road for the rest of the week. After a Tuesday contest at Drake, Iowa they will have a three-game series against the Michigan State Spartans.