Iowa defeats No. 19 Nebraska in series opener behind Blank's 4 RBIs
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa defeated No. 19 Nebraska 6-2 in the series opener of a three-game set on Friday night at Pearl Field. The Hawkeyes used another solid outing from junior starter Kayla Massey and a big offensive output from sophomore Megan Blank to earn their sixth victory against a top-25 opponent.
Blank got things rolling early, lining a two-run homer over the fence in right in the first inning to give the Hawkeyes a 2-0 lead. Iowa is 16-2 this season when scoring first.
"We talk about getting ahead early, all the time," UI head coach Marla Looper said. "We did exactly that [on Friday]. We did a nice job defensively in the first inning, and then we had a clutch home run by Megan Blank. That started our momentum, which carried throughout the game."
Iowa (22-13, 2-5) plated three runs in the second to extend its cushion to 5-0. Freshmen Sammi Gyerman and Holly Hoffman opened the frame with singles before senior Ashley Akers coaxed a one-out walk to load the bases. Senior Bradi Wall, who leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally in hit-by-pitches, was plunked with two outs to bring home the third Hawkeye run. Blank stepped in again and singled up the middle to push across two more runs.
Iowa used a two-out RBI single from Michelle Zoeller in the fourth to extend its advantage to 6-0, which was more than enough for Massey.
Massey won her second start of the week in as many chances, allowing one earned run on six hits in seven complete innings. The Hawkeyes move to 15-0 this season when holding their opponents to two runs or less. Massey has tossed 17 complete games in 19 starts, moving to 12-7 overall with a 1.93 ERA.
Tatum Edwards took the loss for Nebraska (26-8, 4-2) to fall to 17-6. She allowed six runs on seven hits in six innings as the Hawkeye out-hit the Huskers 7-6.
The offensive attack has seen a resurgence in the last two games, totaling 24 runs in 11 innings. Blank, who leads the Big Ten in RBIs, paced the Hawkeyes at the plate, notching her 13th multi-hit game and 14th multi-RBI contest of the season. She finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, to push her reached-base streak to 21 games.
"We are looking more confident at the plate," Looper said. "Confidence breeds confidence. We are starting to feed off each other a little better. I am proud of how we started off."
Iowa has won 11 of 15 overall in the series, including three of the last four dating back to last season.
The Hawkeyes and Huskers will face off again on Saturday and Sunday to conclude the series.