CEDAR FALLS — Even the long bus ride from Terre Haute, Ind., to Cedar Falls failed to provide any answers Sunday for University of Northern Iowa softball coach Ryan Jacobs.
After Indiana State ambushed his Panthers with six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a 6-5 Missouri Valley Conference victory, Jacobs had plenty of time to ask himself what he or his team could have done differently.
“I think I’ve been through every scenario of how we’re going to something different next time when it happens, but I think at the end of the day you’ve just got to give Indiana State credit for playing a full seven innings and competing for seven innings and never giving up,” said Jacobs.
UNI lost twice in the three-game series, both defeats by one run.
“I wasn’t disappointed in how we played for the entire weekend, but if you take two innings out of the 21 we played and we win all three games,” noted Jacobs. “It just tells you it’s still really hard to win on the road in the Valley, especially this year with the competitors we have.”
This week, the Panthers step away from MVC competition briefly for a Wednesday game at Iowa State before returning to league play Saturday when they open the home season at Robinson-Dresser Complex by hosting Evansville.
“I think that’s always an exciting game for both teams,” Jacobs said of the Iowa State matchup. “It’s always fun to play those instate games.
“And then looking forward to this weekend, we’ve got a tough, tough road ahead of us this weekend in Evansville.”
Iowa State is getting better overall pitching this season and is an aggressive offensive team much like those UNI has seen the past two weeks at Missouri State and Indiana State.
“They’re going to put the ball in play,” said Jacobs. “They’ve got some good short game kids. Their intent is to get people on base and put pressure on you ... run and manufacture runs with maybe a little bit more of the power game than Indiana State.”
Evansville (12-14, 4-2) is a team that has gradually improved the past few years and features one of the league’s top pitchers in Morgan Florey. The sophomore from Peoria, Ill., is 9-5 with a 1.89 earned-run average that ranks third in the league. She has allowed just 61 hits in 92.2 innings with a Valley-best 127 strikeouts. Florey is also dangerous at the plate with a .366 average, four homers and 19 RBIs.
“They kind of have that difference-maker player for them right now,” noted Jacobs. “When she’s in the circle, she can beat anybody. We’re going to have to be on our ‘A’ game offensively to compete with her.”
RALLY IN THE VALLEY: UNI’s ninth annual Rally in the Valley is April 22 at the McLeod Center with former football standout Karter Schult serving as a special guest.
“It’s crazy. We’ve already had almost 400 people register for the event,” said Nathan Christensen, assistant athletic director for development.
One of the highlights of the evening is always the auction that features unique UNI items and a few exotic opportunities, like the week in a villa in Puerto Rico donated by a former alum. Another alum donated a suite for 16 at a Minnesota Twins game that includes a hotel stay, and there’s a tailgate party and tickets for the UNI at Iowa State football game sponsored by Whiskey Road up for bid.
“We’re really excited about the items we already have and the items we’ll be getting in the near future,” noted Christensen.
For more information, call the Panther Scholarship Club office at (319) 273-2471.