Panthers start 0-5 at UNI-Dome Classic



Mya Dodge got the season started with a bang, hitting a home run during UNI’s first at-bat of the season.

BEN LAHART, Sports Writer

The UNI softball team started off their 2023 season last weekend as they hosted the Doc Halverson UNI-Dome Classic. The Panthers are coming off their best season since 2017. UNI is the reigning Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season champion, with a 32-13 record and a 22-2 conference record. The Panthers played in a tournament featuring Nebraska, Omaha, Iowa State and South Dakota but uncharacteristically finished 0-5.

In the first matchup against Omaha, UNI started off hot in what turned out to be a high scoring affair. The first at-bat of the season for the Panthers was a home run by Mya Dodge. Taylor Hogan hit an RBI later in the inning to put the Panthers up 2-1 after the first.

In the third inning, UNI gave up a two-run home run with two outs, putting them behind 3-2. The Panthers responded with RBIs from Brooke Snider and Sammy Moss to give UNI the lead again, 4-3, after three innings.

UNI gave up a run in the fourth inning, but a second RBI for Snider in the fifth inning gave the Panthers the lead again at 5-4. This is where things turned for the worst for the Panthers. UNI gave up a tying run in the sixth inning, and in the top of an extra eighth inning, gave up the game-winning run and lost 6-5.

The second game of the tournament was also against Omaha. However, this game featured much less scoring. After a scoreless first inning, UNI scored a run off of a Faith Standerski RBI to take a 1-0 lead. The Panthers held that lead until Omaha hit a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead. After a scoreless seventh inning, the 2-1 score held, and Omaha once again took down the Panthers.

UNI next played Iowa State who jumped out to a lead with a two-run homer in the second inning. The Panthers responded with an Addison McElrath RBI in the second and an Alexis Pupillo home run in the third to tie the game 2-2. A fourth inning home run for the Cyclones followed by a three-run fifth inning built the ISU lead up to 6-2. UNI had a late surge in the seventh inning as Pupillo batted in two more runs but it wasn’t enough and the Panthers lost 6-4.

The next game was once again against Iowa State. UNI started with a Moss RBI in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. In the top of the third inning the Panthers gave up four runs to the Cyclones to which they responded with a Kylee Sanders RBI. These were the last runs the Panthers would score, while Iowa State scored another four runs in the fifth inning and ultimately won 8-2.

The Panthers final game of the weekend came against the University of South Dakota. UNI gave up a run in the first inning but were able to bounce back in the third. The Panthers scored five runs in the inning off of a Pupillo RBI and three errors that allowed for four runs. This put UNI ahead 5-1. South Dakota responded with back-to-back four-run frames in the fifth and sixth innings. UNI scored once more off of a Madison Parks RBI in the sixth inning leading to a South Dakota victory, 9-6.

The 0-5 start for the Panthers is certainly a surprise for the preseason pick to win the MVC, but there are a lot of games left to be played. Last year, the 32-13 conference champion Panthers started off 2-7 before winning 24 of their last 28 games. UNI’s next game will be on Wednesday, Feb. 22 against Austin Peay State University at 3 p.m. in Clarksville, Tenn. The Panthers went 1-1 against Austin Peay last season, outscoring them 8-7 across the two games.