Hawkeyes Storm Back to Top Illini, 4-3, in Extras

Jess Perkins ripped a home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't quite enough for the Illini.
Jess Perkins ripped a home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't quite enough for the Illini.

March 21, 2014

Box Score

Urbana, Ill. - Illinois starter Brandi Needham carried a one-hit shutout with a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh, but Iowa pitcher Kayla Massey crushed a two-run homer to tie the score and send the game into extras, and the hurler came through again with an RBI double in the ninth to lead Iowa past Illinois, 4-3, in extra innings.  Iowa's victory in the Big Ten opener lifts the Hawkeyes to 6-13 (1-0 Big Ten), while the Illini drop to 14-8 (0-1 Big Ten).

Alex Booker led the Illini at the plate, going 3-for-4 with the first RBI of the game. Allie Bauch was 2-for-4 with a run, while Kylie Johnson and Jess Perkins were both 1-for-3 with an RBI triple and a home run, respectively.

Megan Blank got the Iowa offense going, leading off the seventh and ninth innings with hits to go 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Kayla Massey hit 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBI, while Holly Huffman was 2-for-4 with the game-winning RBI. Whitney Repole had the first Iowa hit, going 1-for-4 on the day.

Brandi Needham (9-4) allowed just one hit and two walks over the first six innings, but finished the game with four runs on seven hits over nine innings, while striking out a career-high 10 batters, the most for an Illini in over two years. The last Illinois pitcher to top 10 strikeouts was Pepper Gay, who struck out 11 UAB batters on Feb. 11, 2012.

Kayla Massey (3-8) finished with a similar pitching line, going the full nine innings and allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits and no walks, striking out four.

"I liked how we came out," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Allie and Book got us on the board early. Bee (Brandi) was throwing very well in her Big Ten debut. Then we let Iowa hang around and had some costly lack of execution. You can't sit back in Big Ten play, and we won't tomorrow."

The Illini got things going quickly in the bottom of the first, as Bauch ripped a leadoff single to right. Remeny Perez bunted her into scoring position, and Booker drove her in on an RBI single to left.

Massey got the first two outs in the bottom of the second, but the second baseman misplayed a tough hop off the bat of Katie Repole, and Kylie Johnson made her pay, ripping an RBI triple to left to put Illinois ahead, 2-0.

After a surrendering a leadoff walk to Erickson in the top of the fourth, Needham retired the next nine-straight batters to head into the top of the seventh riding a one-hit shutout and a 2-0 lead. However, Blank led off the seventh with a single to left. Michelle Zoeller popped up the bunt on the sacrifice attempt, but Massey evened the game with one swing, launching a two-run bomb off the scoreboard in left center to tie the game at two.

Massey retired the Illini in order in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game into extra innings.

Bauch led off the bottom of the eighth with a single up the middle and got to second as the center fielder misplayed the ball, but Perez lined into an unfortunate double play to the pitcher to clear the bases. Booker kept the inning going with a single up the middle, but that would be it for the Illini in the eighth.

Blank began the top of the ninth with a double to the corner in left. Zoeller moved her up with a ground out, and Massey came through again with an RBI double to right to give the Hawkeyes their first lead. Hoffman added an insurance run with an RBI single to make it 4-2 before Needham struck out Whitney Repole for the final out.

Perkins drove the first pitch of the ninth inning over the wall in straightaway center to cut the deficit in half, but that was it for the Illini offense as Iowa closed out the comeback by a final score of 4-3.

Next Up: Illinois and Iowa return to Eichelberger Field on Saturday, March 22, to finish out the Big Ten opening series with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.