PEORIA, Ill. — Adara Opiola broke open a tie game with a two-run homer and Northern Iowa went on to thump Illinois State 7-2 in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference softball tournament Thursday.
The Panthers (27-22) face second-seeded Southern Illinois (33-12) in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. semifinal.
UNI took a 1-0 lead Thursday in the bottom of the first on a hit batter, Sammey Bunch’s single and back-to-back walks. Illinois State answered in the top of the second when a double, a wild pitch and an infield hit produced a run.
It remained a 1-1 game until the bottom of the fourth. Claire Dudek drew a one-out walk as a pinch-hitter and Opiola smashed her fifth homer of the season for a 3-1 lead that the Panthers never surrendered.
UNI stretched its lead to 7-1 in the fifth inning. Bunch and Olivia Brooks singled to open the inning and after an out, Ashley Chesser delivered an RBI single. Dudek walked to plate another run, and Opiola capped the rally with a two-run single.
Illinois State got a solo homer from Andrea Coursey in the top of the sixth, but Panther starting pitcher Jaclyn Spencer closed out that inning and turned it over to Brooke Craig for a scoreless seventh. In Friday’s semifinal, UNI faces a Southern Illinois team that swept a three-game series from the Panthers April 27-28 by 6-1, 4-2 and 7-5 scores.
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UNI 7, Illinois St. 2
Illinois St. 010 001 0 — 2 10 0
North. Iowa 100 240 x — 7 7 1
Day, Felde (5) and LaFountaine. Spencer, Craig (7) and Chesser. WP — Spencer (10-4). LP — Day (10-16). 2B — Weltha (Ill. St.), Olson (Ill. St.). HR — Opiola (UNI), Coursey (Ill. St.).
Records: UNI 27-22, Illinois St. 18-33.