Softball sweeps Illinois


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Wednesday’s Big Ten double-header between Iowa and Illinois was supposed to be a shootout, a high-scoring event between the conference’s top two offensive teams.

The offense showed up late, but it was consistent after a walk-off home run by freshman Liz Watkins gave Iowa a 1-0 win in the seventh inning of Game One. Despite the lack of scoring, the crowd of 566 in attendance at Pearl Field was not cheated early on. The opening game featured two pitchers on a mission.

Iowa’s senior pitcher Brittany Weil (14-6) threw the first perfect game for Iowa since Debbie Bilbao did it in 1998. It was also Weil’s third no-hitter of the year.

“My smile was as big as it gets,” Iowa pitching coach Shane Bouman said. “After we got the three outs in the seventh, we knew she had the perfect game. We just hoped we could get her a run.”

With the bases empty in the bottom of the seventh, Watkins stepped into the box and promptly lifted a ball toward the fence in right-center field.

“I was trying to push it,” head coach Gayle Blevins said. “I was trying to lift it. I thought it might hit the top of the fence.”

Illinois’ Monica Perry showed great poise as a freshman pitcher in a hostile environment, allowing only two hits in the first game. One just happened to be the walk-off home run.

In some games, a pitcher can get away with a home run or two. Perry learned that doesn’t apply when the opposing pitcher allows zero baserunners and strikes out 13.

“I was really focused tonight; my pitches were doing exactly what I wanted them to,” Weil said. “The defense behind me was making plays, and it was really easy today just going out and throwing the ball.”

For 61⁄2 innings, Iowa seniors Colleen McGlaughlin and Erin Riemersma were the only players on either team to reach base. McGlaughlin was stranded twice after hitting a single in the first inning and walking in the fourth. Riemersma also was stranded after being walked in the bottom of the fifth.

Perry and Weil started again in the second game, but Perry lost energy quickly.

Watkins hit another long ball in the bottom of the first after Iowa had two hits to open the inning. Four batters later, the bases were loaded again when Sam Heinzman drew a walk to bring Callie Adreon home. Christine Chirstopoulos relieved Perry after an inside pitch hit Missy Mazur, bringing in Lindsey Digmann to make the score 5-0.

Iowa sent two more homers over the fence before the end of night, courtesy of Katie Brown in the fourth and Quinn Morelock in the fifth. Digmann concluded the scoring in the bottom of the sixth on a Katie Keim single, ending the game in six innings due to the eight-run mercy rule.

Iowa cruised to a 9-1 victory behind five more strikeouts by Weil and a solid relief appearance by Amanda Zust. Zust picked up the win to bring her record to 15-1 on the year. Weil now sits just three K’s behind Iowa career strikeout leader Lisa Birroci’s 946 heading into a pair of home games this weekend with Penn State.

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