CEDAR FALLS — Thirteen is usually looked upon as an unlucky number.
For the University of Northern Iowa’s Alyssa Buchanan, it proved to be a number to thrive on, as she retired the final 13 batters she faced in a 5-2 softball victory over Drake Tuesday.
After a shaky beginning, the Panthers and Buchanan settled in as the pitcher registered nine strikeouts and never let Drake out of the gates after the third frame.
“I had a bad throw that kind of affected me a little in that inning,” Buchanan said of the third. “Maybe it affected me too long.”
Buchanan began the third with a strikeout against Kennedy Frank, but then the wheels became loose and the Bulldogs gave the Panthers a rocky road to hoe from that point.
An errant throw followed by a misplayed ball enabled the Bulldogs to score first.
Drake (23-25, 6-15) picked up an additional run on a throwing error before Buchanan settled down and got out of the inning with a strikeout.
“Once we got going, the intensity picked up and we focused more on the little things we need to do,” said Buchanan. “The defense made some big plays and I just thrive on that, and started to throw my game. As a whole we just become a better team and thrive on each other.”
Freshman Ashley Chesser broke into the scorebook for the Panthers with a single that plated Brittney Roby in the bottom half of the third.
The Panthers took the lead in the fifth as Buchanan helped her own cause with a leadoff single. Macey Wolfe drove her home on a base hit, then Anna Varriano brought Wolfe home on a bloop just over the pitcher’s glove. The Panthers never trailed from that point on.
In the next inning Sammey Bunch stroked a long RBI triple to right field and later scored on a Buchanan single. Bunch finished the game with a double and triple.
“I remember her from last week,” Bunch said of starting pitcher Kailee Smith. “She threw a lot to the outside corner and I just looked for that pitch. I think we got a wakeup call in that third and I just wanted to get a hit.”
The defense played flawless over the final four innings, not allowing a single runner to reach base.
“We came out a little bit flat and that seems to be what we do in these mid-week games,” Panther coach Ryan Jacobs said. “We overcame that start and began hitting the ball.
“I think the team helped pick up Alyssa and that helped settle her in. It was a tough game like all the games in this conference. Now we have to get ready for a big battle this weekend.”
Wichita State comes to Robinson-Dresser this weekend.
Northern Iowa 5, Drake 2
Drake 002 000 0—2 3 0
UNI 001 022 x—5 10 1
Smith and Jonas. Buchanan and Varriano. WP—Buchanan (11-2), LP—Smith (14-16). 3B—Bunch (UNI). 2B—Sowa (DU), Bunch (UNI).