CEDAR FALLS — Weather continues to impact Northern Iowa’s softball season.
A move from the UNI-Dome outdoors to Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex, has brought a new dimension to the Panthers’ Missouri Valley Conference games.
UNI took advantage of strong right-to-left winds that made any fly ball a home run candidate during Sunday afternoon’s 6-1 win over Illinois State.
After splitting Saturday’s doubleheader, this game served as an important showdown entering the final weekend of league play. The Panthers (25-23, 10-12) are in the midst of a group of five teams, third through seventh place, now tied in the win column with 10 MVC victories.
“Sunday is always an adjustment day from the day before, and we did a good job of adjusting on offense,” UNI coach Ryan Jacobs said. “But the big key was (pitcher) Brooke (Craig) adjusting to the wind and keeping the ball down.”
Craig did an admirable job from the circle as the Redbirds (19-30, 10-12) only put four balls in play that weren’t grounders.
“I knew with the wind I just had to be myself and stay tall,” Craig said. “If I worked well in the zone and stayed tall, I knew I could get them to hit more ground balls. When that happens, then that great defense behind me will make the plays.
“I trust my defense, and with Sammey (Bunch) making plays like she does (at shortstop), what more can you ask for? Our defense helps build my confidence, and when our offense comes up with the big hits with quality at bats, it makes things a little easier.”
Craig revealed some glove prowess, as well, when she prevented a Redbirds threat from materializing in the fourth inning with two runners on.
Brittni LaFountaine reached on a two-out double, then advanced to third on a single from Caitlyn Daly. The top of the order was facing Craig, but she fielded a hard come-backer from Riley Hale to retire the side.
It was all UNI after that. Craig kept the Redbird bats quiet with six hits, and her offense added to its lead.
Courtney Krodinger sliced a rocket through the stiff winds that quickly sailed over the left field fence for an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning. The hosts tacked on four tallies in the fourth frame with the big blast a three-run homer off Bunch’s bat.
Senior Kennedy Bailey made good in her final home appearance with a fielder’s choice that scored fellow senior, Brittney Roby, for UNI’s final run.
“We will definitely miss our two seniors,” Jacobs said. “Kennedy has been a four-year player for us and Roby has been that energetic kid that gets very competitive and gets the energy going. They both hate to lose.
Looking forward, UNI’s coach added, “We now will take a few days off then get ready for Southern Illinois next weekend. We don’t know where we will end up in the standings, but we do know that if we tie with Illinois State we should have the tiebreaker. We will have to see how that plays out.”
UNI 6, Illinois State 1
Illinois State 001 000 0—1 6 1
Northern Iowa 020 400 x—6 4 0
Morgan Day, Ali Domkuski (4) and Brittni LaFountaine. Brooke Craig and Ashley Chesser. WP—Craig (14-10), LP—Day (8-9). HR—Courtney Krodinger (UNI). 2B—Shannon Felde (ISU), LaFountaine (ISU), Sammey Bunch (UNI), Adara Opiola (UNI).