Bunch claims single-season home run record

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Bunch claims single-season home run record




ELIOT CLOUGH, Sports Editor

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UNI shortstop Sammey Bunch is having herself a season for the Panthers.

The Crusaders of Valparaiso University came to town for a Missouri Valley Conference matchup this weekend with UNI, and were made well aware of that.

In the first of two contests held on Saturday, UNI was able to cut the games short with a five-inning, 17-1 victory, and a six-inning win by a final score of 8-0.

Going into the first game of the double-header, Bunch sat just behind the single-season record for home runs in a season for UNI at 13. 

Struggling initially and ultimately ending the game with two strikeouts, Panther fans were eyeing their next game for Bunch to tie the record, but the UNI shortstop had other ideas.

With the Panthers already up by a score of 9-1 in the fourth inning and three runners on base, Bunch lifted her 14th home run of the season, tying the all-time record with a grand slam, and extending the lead to 13-1.

Centerfielder Courtney Krodinger and catcher Ashley Chesser also hit the ball past the fence in the first matchup of the day.

Emma Olejniczak pitched the game from top to bottom, allowing six hits, one earned run and striking out four batters.

The big hits were a trend all day for the Panthers, as three home runs came all in the second inning of game number two of the doubleheader.

The first two came in back-to-back fashion off the bats of pinch hitter Emma Valainis and first-baseman Brittney Krodinger. Then, the now-holder of the single-season record for home runs, Bunch came to the plate, sending a laser to center field to grab sole possession of the record.

“It feels pretty good, but honestly I’m just glad we got two wins,” said Bunch after the contests. “I’m just out here playing softball, trying to do my best every game and help my team win a conference tournament at this point.”

Waterloo native Jaclyn Spencer had a stellar performance on the mound, going the full six innings, striking out seven batters and only allowing two hits.

The third game of the series proved to have more of the same for UNI, ultimately earning a third conference win in a row, finishing off the Crusaders in the fifth inning by a score of 11-3.

Bunch added to her single-season total, reaching 16 home runs for the year in the third game. B. Krodinger and Valainis all hit the ball deep in this contest as well.

“I think it’s just a different mindset [this year],” said head coach Ryan Jacobs. “[Bunch] is closing in on tying the record of home runs we hit last year as a team by herself. It says a lot about what we’ve done to change our hitting approach and our hitting style.”

Jacobs continued to heap the praise on the Panther shortstop, crediting her hard work in the offseason. “She’s really been a beast in the weight room. She’s really taken that part of her training to the next level and it’s starting to show up on the field for her. What you do in the weight room takes a little while to show up, and it really has for her this year.”

Junior pitcher Brooke Craig earned the win in the third contest for UNI, pitching four innings and allowing seven hits.

Up next, the Panthers will head south to take on the Iowa State Cyclones this coming Tuesday, April 16, for a non-conference, in-state match up.

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