Schulte blast leads Hawkeye softball over Buckeyes

The May 5 softball series-opener against Ohio State featured a back-and-forth pitching duel that ultimately ended in a 1-0 Hawkeye victory.

Iowa%27s+Miranda+Schulte+connects+on+what+would+be+a+double+during+a+softball+game+against+Des+Moines+Area+Community+College+on+Friday%2C+Sep.+21%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Bears+8-1.
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Schulte blast leads Hawkeye softball over Buckeyes

Iowa's Miranda Schulte connects on what would be a double during a softball game against Des Moines Area Community College on Friday, Sep. 21, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bears 8-1.

Iowa's Miranda Schulte connects on what would be a double during a softball game against Des Moines Area Community College on Friday, Sep. 21, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bears 8-1.

David Harmantas

Iowa's Miranda Schulte connects on what would be a double during a softball game against Des Moines Area Community College on Friday, Sep. 21, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bears 8-1.

David Harmantas

David Harmantas

Iowa's Miranda Schulte connects on what would be a double during a softball game against Des Moines Area Community College on Friday, Sep. 21, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bears 8-1.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

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Iowa softball continued to struggle to hit the ball in the May 3 matchup against Ohio State. But as it has done many times this season, the Hawkeyes’ pitching kept them in the game, leading to a 1-0 victory over the Buckeyes at Pearl Field.

Sarah Lehman, the Hawkeye starter, went pitch for pitch with Buckeye Morgan Ray, neither one yielding a run until the sixth inning.

Riding the stellar performance in the circle from Lehman, the Hawkeyes mustered just that single run to end Ohio State’s eight-game winning streak.

Miranda Schulte broke the 0-0 stalemate in the bottom half of the sixth when she unloaded on a Ray pitch and sent it over the left-field fence to give the Hawkeyes what proved to be the deciding run.

“The whole game she was throwing me curve balls, so I was expecting that,” Schulte said. “I was up in the box, and it felt good off the bat the second I hit it. I knew it was gone.”

While Schulte did her job at the plate, Lehman handled the Buckeye offense from the circle. She sliced her way through a very potent Ohio State lineup and held it to just 2 hits in seven scoreless innings.

“Sarah did a nice job on the mound keeping them off balance,” Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie said. “Abby [Lien] did a nice job calling the game and understanding what we wanted for each batter.”

Shutting down the third-best offense in the Big Ten is impressive, but what Lehman did to two of the Buckeyes’ premier players was more so.

Lilli Piper and Emily Clark have torn up opposing pitching all season long, and their big seasons were rewarded with selections by National Pro Fastpitch.

Piper entered the game with a .423 batting average and 48 runs scored, and Clark had hit .383 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs.

The two combined to hit just two singles in six plate appearances.

“I used all my pitches,” Lehman said. “I think they had a hard time choosing what was coming. My defense behind me was really good.”

A win on its own is reason enough to celebrate, but the Hawkeyes have a bit more cause with this one because it moves them closer to their goal of making the Big Ten Tournament.

“It’s a big win for us,” Schulte said. “We came in as the underdogs, and it always feels good to get a win as the underdog, especially going into the Big Ten Tournament.”

Iowa sits in 12th place in the Big Ten standings with a one-game lead over Maryland. Given that only 12 teams make the tournament, moving up to that 12th spot this late in the season is pivotal.

With two regular-season games left, the Hawkeyes will have to win out or hope Michigan State and Maryland — the two teams trailing Iowa in the standings — fail to win their games.

The Hawkeyes and the Buckeyes will play Game 2 of the three-game series at 1 p.m. May 4.