That’s how many games Iowa had won in a row over Michigan State heading into Friday night’s contest at Pearl Field, the Spartans last winning in April of 2006. That was eight years ago, when there were still 11 schools in the Big Ten, Twitter wasn’t a website, and AMC was practically still a movies-only channel.
The long streak was snapped Friday as Iowa (12-23, 5-10 Big Ten) lost to Michigan State 1-0.
The two teams went scoreless through the first five innings, with not a single runner advancing past second base.
“We didn’t have too many opportunities to score,” Iowa coach Marla Looper said. “We didn’t make adjustments early — or late, for that matter. We need to make adjustments sooner.”
Michigan State scored in the top of the sixth inning. With two outs and a runner at first, pinch-runner Dana Briggs stole second and then Stephanie Sanders connected for a single up the middle a few pitches later to score Briggs and give the Spartans a 1-0 advantage. Iowa starter Kayla Massey got two quick outs to begin the sixth, but Sarah Gutknecht drew a two-out walk to continue the frame.
The Hawkeyes’ only threat to score came in the fifth inning when it had runners on first and second with only one out as Whitney Repole walked and Michelle Zoeller reached on an error. Massey had an opportunity to help herself out at the plate, but the senior popped out to first after a long at-bat, and Brianna Luna popped out to second to end the inning.
“I just got under it, kept missing it,” Massey said of her at-bat. “Tried to get on top of the ball, but eventually just got under it too much.”
Looper’s squad defeated No. 13 Missouri on Wednesday — picking up a couple signature wins by sweeping a doubleheader over the Tigers — so the Hawkeyes had a chance to build a winning streak. The Spartans (11-28, 3-12) were losers of nine of their last 11 before Friday, as both teams will continue a three-game series with games Saturday and Sunday.
The Hawkeyes, in ninth place in the Big Ten, still can make a climb in the conference standings this weekend against the last-place Spartans, but Friday would have been a nice start to that goal.
Iowa has just two more Big Ten series remaining after this one, April 25-27 at Indiana and May 2-4 against Ohio State at home.
“I know we can bounce back,” Looper said. “The kids were frustrated, but they’re not down in the dumps or anything. They know they didn’t make the adjustments they needed to. … We didn’t do a good job of taking control of things we can control today. When we do that, odds are in our favor.
“We still have a lot of softball left. We have two more games this weekend, and (Saturday) is the most important one of our season right now.”