Softball opens season in the UNI-Dome Classic


UNI Athletics

The UNI softball team opened up their season this past weekend in the Doc Halvorson UNI-Dome Classic, going 2-3 in their five games played.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

Following a successful 2021 season in which saw the UNI softball team make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers returned to the field for the Doc Halvorson UNI-Dome Classic from Feb. 11-13. This UNI squad is coming into the season with high aspirations, as they were chosen as the preseason favorites to win the Missouri Valley Conference. The round-robin style tournament featured six teams: UNI, Iowa State, Drake, South Dakota State, Omaha and Nebraska. The Panthers played two games on both Friday and Saturday, splitting them both, and fell to Iowa State on Sunday.

The season was underway for the Panthers against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Friday afternoon. This game was a pitcher’s duel, as UNI’s Kailyn Packard and Nebraska’s Olivia Ferrell duked it out on the mound with neither team managing to score until the seventh inning. In the top half of the inning, Nebraska left fielder Abbie Squier finally broke through, as she hammered a solo home run off Packard to put the Cornhuskers up 1-0. Not to be outdone, the Panthers responded in the bottom half of the inning. With two runners on base and only one out, Addison McElrath pinch-hit for UNI. She came through in the clutch, hitting a ground-rule double to drive in the tying run. UNI first baseman Daryn Lamprecht kept the clutch hitting going as she knocked a ground ball over the head of the Nebraska third baseman and down the left field line, bringing in Mya Dodge from third and giving the Panthers the 2-1 walk-off victory in their first game of the 2022 season. Packard earned her first win of the season with Ferrell as the losing pitcher for this game.

The Panthers had little time to celebrate the victory in game one as they immediately had to turn around and face South Dakota State. This game was similar to the first game, as both pitchers in the contest had strong performances. Samantha Heyer was on the bump for UNI as she faced off against SDSU’s Tori Kniesche.

Both pitchers were rolling early on, with the lone blemish from Heyer coming in the second inning as she gave up a solo home run to the Jackrabbits’ second baseman Lindsey Culver. Kniesche kept the Panther bats quiet until the bottom of the seventh, when UNI’s Emmy Wells clocked a long solo home run over the left field wall to again tie the game in the last frame. This contest ended up going into extra innings, but South Dakota State managed to scratch across a run in the top of the ninth to take a 2-1 lead, which held as the final score.

Game three on Saturday night had UNI face off against South Dakota State again, but this time the result was not as close. The Panthers scored the first two runs of this game off SDSU pitcher Grace Glanzer with one run in the first inning and another in the second, but the big innings were the story in this one. Packard was on the hill again in this one, but she allowed three runs in the top of the third and was pulled from the game in the fifth inning. The game ended up getting away from the Panthers as SDSU closed out the 9-3 victory.

The fourth game of the tournament matched up the Panthers with the Omaha Mavericks. Trailing 4-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, UNI loaded the bases against Omaha pitcher Sydney Nuismer. Mya Dodge, the designated hitter for the Panthers, found the sweet spot on the bat and smacked a go-ahead grand slam to put the Panther women up 6-4. UNI’s Hailey Sanders closed out the game in the top half and sealed the Panther victory.

The fifth and final game of the Dome tournament matched up the in-state rivals UNI and Iowa State. The Cyclones got out to the early lead, scoring four runs in the third off of Sanders and another in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead. The Panthers would not go down quietly, however, as they scratched across three runs in the sixth inning and another in the seventh inning. The UNI comeback fell short though, with Iowa State closing out the 5-4 win.

UNI will play many of their upcoming games against teams down south, due to weather constraints. For their next game they will travel to Cookeville, Tenn. on Feb. 23 for a game against Tennessee Tech. The next time the Panthers will play at home will be April 2-3 against Missouri State at the Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex.