NORMAL, Ill. — An opportunity slipped away in the first game of Northern Iowa’s Saturday softball doubleheader at Illinois State.
The Panthers left no doubt in game two of a battle featuring the top two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
Illinois State rallied with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat UNI, 5-4, in the opener. UNI plated seven runs in the fourth inning of the second game and secured a 9-1 victory.
It was a day that likely left UNI (25-17, 15-7 MVC) wondering what might have been. Illinois State (28-8, 14-4) was able to maintain some separation in a race for the league’s regular season title that is nearing the finish line.
Sammey Bunch homered twice and drive in three runs as the Panthers took a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning of the opener.
In the bottom half of the sixth, the Redbirds chased starter Samantha Heyer from the game. Jayden Standish led off with a triple and Bri LaFount added a one-out single through the left side before Erica Oler replaced Heyer on the mound.
Oler walked the first two Redbirds she faced and the score tied on a shortstop error before Dayna Kennedy’s sacrifice fly to left put Illinois State in front for good. The Panthers finished the opener with four errors.
UNI ace Kailyn Packard improved to 17-5 on the season with a shut-down effort in game two. Packard struck out nine, walked one and allowed just three hits in the contest that was shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.
Kamryn Shaffer highlighted UNI’s offense with three RBI’s, including a two-run single towards the end of the seven-run surge in the top of the fourth. Panther third baseman Brooke Snider finished 2-for-3 with a solo home run and two runs scored.
UNI and Illinois State will finish their three-game series at 11 a.m. Sunday.
UNI 002 110 0—4 5 4
Illinois State 000 203 x—5 7 0
Samantha Heyer, Erica Oler (6) and Emmy Wells. Morgan Day and Dayna Kennedy. WP—Day (17-5). LP—Oler (5-6). HRs: Sammey Bunch, Kamryn Shaffer (UNI). 2B—Jayden Standish (ISU). 3B—Jayden Standish (ISU).
UNI 110 70—9 10 0
Illinois State 000 10—1 3 1
Kailyn Packard and Emmy Wells. Mack Leonard, Hanna Ross (4) and Dayna Kennedy. WP—Packard (17-5). LP—Leonard (10-3). HR—Brooke Snider (UNI). 3B—Andrea Coursey (ISU). 2B—Adara Opiola (UNI).