Redbirds Lose Back-and-Forth Game to Iowa, 3-2
April 9, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Left fielder Jessie Buker homered for just the third time this season, and pitcher/first baseman Amber Smith delivered a key two-out RBI single in the sixth inning, but in the end, it came down to a game-winning single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh by the Hawkeyes that did the Redbirds in, as the Illinois State softball team lost, 3-2, to Iowa Wednesday afternoon in non-conference action at Pearl Field in Iowa City, Iowa.
The loss snapped ISU's season-long five-game winning streak and dropped the Redbirds to 16-15 overall, 6-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Iowa picked up its second win this season over Illinois State and improved to 26-12 overall this season.
Buker was the Redbirds' top hitter in the game, as her solo home run capped off a 2-for-3 day at the plate for the Macon, Ill., native. She has now recorded eight hits in her last six games played. Sophomore third baseman Kara Nelson also picked up a pair of hits in the game, as she singled and doubled during a 2-for-3 effort at the plate.
Pitching in relief of starter Amber Smith, who lasted 3 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits, junior Rachel Smith (4-4) earned her fourth loss of the season after she allowed the game-winning run to the Hawkeyes in the bottom of the seventh. Rachel Smith pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief and scattered five hits, while she struck out two.
With the score tied at 2-2, and the bases loaded following two-straight singles and an intentional walk, Iowa's Erin Riemersma stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning and delivered the game's final offensive punch, as she singled through the middle to send the Redbirds back to Normal, Ill., with a 3-2 loss.
"I thought that (Wednesday's) game was a great game for both teams," said Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischer. "I thought that Iowa's short game hurt us, and they came up with some big, key hits. It boiled down to one pitch, and Iowa just happened to win that one pitch."
For the third-straight game, Nelson led off the game by reaching base, as the Moline, Ill., native drove a Brittany Weil pitch deep over the Iowa center fielder's head in the top of the first inning for what looked to be a stand-up double. After the Hawkeye center fielder bobbled the ball, Nelson advanced to third base. Then, following Iowa's cutoff throw to third base that got past the Hawkeye third baseman, Nelson made her way toward home plate. Nelson's scoring attempt was thwarted, however, as the Iowa third baseman picked the ball up along the third-base fence and threw home to catcher Emily Nichols, who tagged Nelson out as she slid to the outside of the plate.
After starting the inning with a double by Nelson and nearly scoring a run on the play, the Redbird bats were held silent for the remainder of the frame, as second baseman Tiffany Prager and Amber Smith went down via two-straight infield pop-ups to end the inning.
One inning later, Buker put Illinois State on the board with her third home run of the season on a solo shot that just sneaked over the fence in straight-away center field. Buker's home run broke a six-game homerless streak for Illinois State, its second-longest streak without a home run this season.
Iowa came back with two runs of its own in the bottom of the fourth inning. An RBI single up the middle by Katie Brown started the Hawkeye rally, as she drove in pinch runner Callie Adreon from second base to tie the game, 1-1. One batter later, the Hawkeyes forced Amber Smith out of the circle, as a stand-up double by Summer Downs over Buker's head in left field scored Brown and gave Iowa a 2-1 advantage.
After being shut down offensively for three-straight innings, the Redbirds broke through in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 2-2. After Nelson reached base on a single through the right side, a sacrifice bunt by Prager pushed Nelson to second base and put ISU into scoring position. Amber Smith then delivered in the clutch, as she recorded her team-high 16th two-out hit of the season with a single up the middle that scored Nelson.
Iowa had another chance to score in the bottom of the sixth inning after a leadoff triple by Riemersma put the Hawkeyes just 60 feet away from taking the lead. Rachel Smith and the Redbirds got out of the jam on the next play, as a groundball by Brown back to Rachel Smith in the circle caught Riemersma in a rundown and kept the score at 2-2 heading into the seventh inning.
Illinois State will resume Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend when it travels to Peoria, Ill., for a three-game series against in-state rival Bradley Saturday and Sunday. First pitch of Saturday's doubleheader is slated for noon from Laura Bradley Park.