University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — UNI softball split a pair of games Saturday night as the annual Doc Halverson UNI-Dome Classic took place. The Panthers opened Saturday with a 7-3 win over Northern Illinois before dropping a 6-2 game against Omaha to end action on the second day of the event.

UNI was able to record its first 3-0 start to a season since 2018 as an impressive offensive performance powered the Panthers to a four-run victory against Northern Illinois. Taylor Hogan led the way with a team-high four RBI, and Alexis Pupillo AND Madison Parks hit home runs in the sixth inning to secure the win.

Unfortunately, the Panthers were unable to carry that momentum into their game against Omaha. UNI now sits at 3-1 heading into the final day of the event on Sunday, where the Panthers close out the weekend with another game against Western Illinois.

Game 1 | UNI 7 – NIU 3

The Panthers got off to a fast start for the second straight contest, jumping on NIU starting pitcher Madison Carlson for a pair of runs in the first inning. Carlson walked the bases loaded in the home half of the opening frame, which set the stage for Hogan to lace a two-run single to center field to open the scoring.

Samantha Heyerwho got the start for the Panthers after a complete game against Butler on Friday night, was able to walk twice before running into trouble in the third.

NIU’s Ellis Erickson hit a solo home run with one out to start the rally. Erickson’s home run snapped a 16-hit streak by the Panther pitching staff, the longest such streak to start a UNI softball season since 2002.

A double and a hit put runners on second and third, and the Huskies took the lead with two hits in the inning. Katy Ramage fired a hard hit ground ball Kylee Sanderswhose throw to first base from the back of the infield took an errant hop and allowed both runners to score.

Heyer closed out the game in what would ultimately be her final action of the day. Anna Wischnowskiwho appeared in the Panthers’ game Friday against Western Illinois, pitched the final four games of the contest.

In the bottom of the third, Hogan again came through with a two-out RBI. With two exits, Kate Lappe laced a double down the left field line to set up Hogan, who drove Lappe home with a double of her own. Wischnowski then went through two efficient innings before the Panthers threatened once more in the bottom of the fifth.

UNI loaded the bases with no outs, which brought Hogan to the plate. She delivered what would ultimately be the game-winning RBI, driving a run-scoring double to the left side of the NIU infield.

The Panthers put the game away in the bottom of the sixth after another quick inning by Wischnowski. Sanders started things off with a deep double that hit the left field fence on a fly, then Pupillo drove home with a home run, crashing into the right field bleachers.

Parks, the other hurler, followed suit with a blast to right field. Back-to-back home runs broke the game open for the Panthers, and Wischnowski capped an impressive relief outing with a 1-2-3 shutout to secure the 7-3 win.

Wischnowski allowed just two hits in four innings of work. The Trevor, Wisconsin native picked up her second win of the 2024 campaign in the process.

Game 2 | Omaha 6 – UNI 2

The Panthers unfortunately picked up their first loss of the season in their second and final game of the night, which came 30 minutes after defeating Northern Illinois. The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead that proved too significant for the Panthers to overcome, and Omaha pitcher Kamryn Meyer pitched a complete game largely keeping UNI’s bats at bay.

Maddy McDermott got her first collegiate start for the Panthers in Saturday night’s contest, and the Mavericks greeted her with a pair of early runs. Omaha loaded the bases with no outs before McDermott singled, forcing a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly before ending the first batter later. However, the Mavericks turned a fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly into runs and held a 2-0 lead after the first inning.

Meyer held the Panthers hitless through the first two innings before the Mavericks extended their lead in the top of the third. Omaha started the inning with two doubles then, after a fielder’s choice, Sydney Ross hit a three-run home run to give the Mavericks a 5-0 lead.

McDermott eventually went four innings in her collegiate debut, allowing five hits and five earned runs. She earned the first hit of her collegiate career in the top of the third inning. Kara Myers went the rest of the way for the Panthers in relief.

In the bottom of the fourth, Pupillo belted her second home run in as many games with a sharp drive to right field. UNI’s second run came in the bottom of the sixth inning Addison McElrath recorded her first RBI of the season with a sacrifice fly that scored Lappe from third base.

Omaha added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning with a solo home run to extend its lead to 6-2.

Savanna Jemilo recorded her first collegiate hit in the bottom of the seventh inning. Meyer then retired the Panthers to hand UNI its first loss of the season.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • Before Saturday, the Panthers hadn’t started a season 3-0 since 2018. UNI’s 16-game scoreless streak to start the season was the longest to start a campaign since 2002.
  • Parks hit her 15th career home run to cap an explosive sixth inning against Northern Illinois. Before Saturday, Parks had not made it home since April 14, 2023.
  • Saturday’s win against Northern Illinois marked the third four-RBI game of Hogan’s career. Her career high for runs scored came on March 18, 2023 with a six-RBI performance against Murray State.
  • Not only did Pupillo pick off the first two home runs of the 2024 season on Saturday, she also made a bit of personal history. In 2023, Pupillo started all 51 UNI games behind the plate. Pupillo started in right field for the first time in her collegiate career against Omaha, recording three appearances in the contest.
  • Ellie Owen made her season debut against the Huskies.
  • Wischnowski made her second career home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against Northern Illinois. She drew a walk.
  • Ava Smithson made her first appearance as a Panther on Saturday against the Mavericks. She did not record a hit in her lone plate appearance. Smithson started the game against Omaha.
  • Maiers, a Kirkwood Community College transfer, pitched the final three games against the Mavericks. She allowed three hits and one run while striking out two in relief.
  • Jemilo, who got the win Friday night against Western Illinois, belted an opposite-field double for her first collegiate hit against the Mavericks.

NEXT

The Panthers return to action Sunday to close out the third and final day of the Doc Halverson UNI-Dome Classic. UNI faces Western Illinois, who the Panthers beat 6-0 on Friday night, at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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