The Iowa softball team is finding its groove during the early stages of the new season.
Already have beaten three ranked teams, the Hawkeyes got two more wins Saturday and are now 14-5 on the season.
The Hawkeyes swept Cal State Fullerton (7-0) and CSU Bakersfield (5-3) on Saturday to finish the Easton Invitational with a perfect 4-0 record. Those two wins came after Iowa took down No. 15 Stanford (7-6) and No. 24 Oregon State (9-3) to begin the tournament Friday.
All four games at the Easton Invitational were held on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.
“Overall, it was a really good weekend for us,” said UI head coach Marla Looper. “I am proud of the girls; defeating two top-ranked opponents yesterday, and Cal State Fullerton and CSU Bakersfield today. Cal State Fullerton has been playing really well, so it was tough playing at their place knowing they have been hot. Bakersfield was scrappy and did not give up.”
Kayla Massey pitched Iowa past Cal State Fullerton in the opener after tossing a complete game one-hitter. It was her fifth win of the year as she struck out four Titans en route to her first shutout of the year.
“Kayla did a nice job keeping the ball down and forcing them to swing at pitches she wanted them to,” said Looper. “Our defense played phenomenal behind her; diving after balls left and right.”
Megan Blank and Sammi Gyerman both posted multi-hit games to pace the offense. Blank finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Gyerman went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
The Hawkeyes batted around and plated five runs in the opening inning. Johnnie Dowling reached on an error and Bradi Wall roped a double to begin the frame. Blank then laced an RBI single to make it 2-0. Brianna Luna and Michelle Zoeller were both hit by pitches with two outs before Gyerman drilled a two-run single.
Ashley Akers then poked a perfect RBI bunt single that gave the visitors a 5-0 advantage.
Blank just missed a home run in the second inning, instead of settling for the long double. Massey then helped herself as she launched her second home run of the season over the fence in left-center field as the lead grew to 7-0.
Massey did not allow a hit through four and two-thirds innings. Desiree Ybarra took the loss for the Titans (8-11), allowing six runs on six hits in an inning and two-thirds.
The Hawkeyes got another solid pitching performance from Chelsea Lyon in the second game.
Iowa plated four runs in the second inning. Luna began the frame with a double and then Zoeller reached after dropping down a beautiful bunt single. Gyerman was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and with one out, Dowling crushed a double down the line to score two.
Wall followed with an RBI groundout before Blank gave the Hawkeyes a 4-0 lead following an RBI triple.
“We like those big innings,” said Looper. “It usually starts with a walk or hit-by-pitch. We continue to put runners on, then that hit hurts a little more. I wish we could have continued to do that today after we started strong early. That is an area we have to continue to improve.”
The Roadrunners (1-9) posted two runs in the fifth inning to cut the Iowa lead to 4-2. The Hawkeyes answered though in the next inning as Gyerman opened the frame with a double and then scored on Dowling’s RBI single.
Dowling paced the offense with three hits and three RBIs. The three hits equaled a career best.
CSU Bakersfield added a run in the bottom half, but it was too little, too late, as Iowa held on for the 5-3 win.
Lyon pitched five innings to earn the win and move to 7-1. She struck out four Roadrunners. Freshman Micaela Whitney earned her first career save, tossing two scoreless innings in relief. She struck out two.
“We have made some huge strides to this point,” said Looper. “I am proud of the girls and how they came out and attacked this weekend. We are excited to get back and get some work in, and then face some good competition out East.”
Iowa will next play March 9-10 in College Park, Md., in the Miken Invitational hosted by future Big Ten rival Maryland. The Hawkeyes will face St. Johns at 8 a.m. and Maryland at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Iowa will then take on Radford at 8 a.m. and Ohio State at 10 a.m. Sunday.