One big swing and a few little things were enough to push Iowa past Iowa State 4-3 Wednesday at Pearl Field in Iowa City.
Jenny Schuelke hit a towering 3-run home run in the second inning and the Hawkeyes made up for some poor defense with some good baserunning.
“We got a good lead early, then kind of handed it back to them,” Iowa coach Marla Looper said. “Luckily, Liz (Watkins) was heady on the bases and got to third. If she hadn’t been there, that fly ball, it might have been for naught, and we’d still be playing.”
Watkins doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning and advanced to third base on a ball that squirted away from Cyclone catcher Amandine Habben.
Watkins, Iowa’s catcher who had been pinch run for earlier in the game, slid under the tag of Dalyn Varela at third base.
No. 9 hitter Michelle Zoeller delivered with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“It’s the little things that are going to win you the game,” Looper said.
Early on, it looked like Iowa (25-16) might just rely on Schuelke. The Solon graduate came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the second and had a 2-2 count on her.
“I just went up there to protect the plate, and she gave me one right down the middle,” Schuelke said.
Schuelke belted it over the head of her former Solon teammate Heidi Kidwell in center field.
“With an in-state rival, you always really get pumped up for the game, so it was good to get some runs on the board early,” Schuelke said.
Iowa State (19-20) came back in the fifth inning. After Habben singled to start the inning, two errors loaded the bases with nobody out on Iowa starter Chelsea Lyon.
Lyon then issued walks to Sara Davison and Dalyn Varela to make it 3-2.
That’s when Looper went to freshman Kayla Massey out of the bullpen. Massey got a strikeout, a popup and a ground out to get out of the inning without any further damage.
“I came in and I was thinking, ‘I hope my stuff is working,’” Massey said. “Just buckle down and focus on getting three outs.”
The Cyclones tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when Erin Johnson tripled and was bunted in my Habben. That set up Watkins’ game-winning run.
It gave the relief win to Massey, who struck out four and walked none in three innings of work.
“The umpire had more of my type of strike zone,” Massey said. “The other team was really aggressive swinging, and I took advantage of the situation.”
Iowa, which improved to 7-0 at home, travels this weekend for a pair of Big Ten games at No. 1 Michigan.