For Iowa softball player Brianna Luna, timing meant everything against Iowa State on Wednesday.
She smacked a mammoth solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning despite facing a strong crosswind that was blowing to right field. She also had a run-scoring single in the third inning as Iowa collected 13 hits overall while defeating the Cyclones 8-3 in the final home game at Pearl Field this season.
Luna’s solo blast hit the top of the scoreboard in centerfield. It was also her first home run this season.
“I kind of feel like I caught it at the right moment when there was no wind, otherwise it probably would have blown back in, I’ll be honest with that,” said, Luna, a junior first baseman from Indio, Calif. “I was just trying to zero in on it and keep the ball on the ground, but obviously, I stroked it and it felt really good.”
Iowa improved to 27-23 with the victory and will close out the regular season by playing three games at Purdue over the weekend beginning on Friday.
Iowa State fell to 21-30 on the season and will play at Northern Iowa today.
The Cyclones were trailing 8-3 when they loaded the bases in the sixth inning and had their top hitter at the plate with two outs. However, Erica Miller, who entered the game with a .370 batting average and a team-leading 50 RBIs, grounded out to second base to end the threat.
“That’s definitely who you want up there,” Iowa State coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “It just didn’t work out today.”
Iowa and Iowa State both have struggled this season to get timely hits. Wednesday’s game was no exception for the Cyclones, who finished with nine hits but left 11 runners on base and failed to capitalize on three Iowa errors.
“We were just talking after the game how we really felt like it could have gone either way,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “We were right there, and it seemed like they settled in a little bit faster than we did and took advantage where we did not.
“But still I thought we competed real well and had a lot of chances to win but stranded a lot of runners.”
The victory was Iowa’s ninth in its last 12 games against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes also finished undefeated in three games against in-state opponents this season by a combined score of 36-4. Iowa pounded Drake 18-0 on April 3 in Des Moines and defeated Northern Iowa 10-1 last Thursday in Cedar Falls.
The problem for Iowa has been winning games in Big Ten play, where it has a 5-15 record.
“Especially with our struggles this game was really crucial to us,” Luna said.
Junior pitcher Kayla Massey went the distance for Iowa on the mound. She gave up one run in each of the first three innings before holding the Cyclones scoreless over the final four innings.
Third-year Iowa coach Marla Looper praised her hitters for having the right approach at the plate.
“It was timely hitting, not trying to do too much,” Looper said. “Just do enough is what we’ve got to do sometimes.
“Sometimes, we try to do too much and we don’t make things happen.”
Luna has struggled with her hitting for much of the season. She entered Wednesday’s game with a modest .210 batting average and with just eight RBIs.
“She did a nice job with that (home run),” Looper said. “She squared it up and drove it. And tip-your hat when you can drive it into a head wind like that.
“It’s just nice to see that because she hasn’t been getting that solid of contact lately.”