CEDAR FALLS — Ashley Chesser prefers that the spotlight shines on her University of Northern Iowa softball teammates.
The junior catcher from Broken Arrow, Okla., couldn’t avoid it Sunday after she doubled and homered to help power the Panthers (3-2) past South Dakota State 10-2 to wrap up the UNI-Dome Classic.
“It is funny that I am the catcher but hate to be the center of attention,” Chesser said. “I really like the attention on my teammates and I just try to do what I can to help. After what happened last night (a 16-0 loss to Southeast Missouri St.), we definitely needed this game.
“We made the adjustments we needed to with the bats and everyone contributed. It was a good team win against a very good team.”
Chesser helped the Panthers take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI double after sacrifice flies by Sammey Bunch and Hannah Kelley. In the third inning, she put an exclamation point on her night with a two-run homer over the right field curtain for a 5-2 lead.
“It’s about adjustability at the plate and I was able to make that on the pitch I wanted,” added Chesser. “It just felt good to make contact and help the team.”
UNI’s first four games in the tournament showed some rough edges, including in the pitching circle where the Panthers surrendered 25 runs.
Freshman Hannah Kelley stepped up Sunday and held the Jackrabbits to just two runs on one hit — a two-run homer by Lyndsey Crist.
“Honestly I didn’t know what to expect except to go out and help my team,” said the Davenport Assumption product. “I was more impressed with my teammates and how they just went after it.
“As the game went on I just felt really good about my pitches. Chess worked really hard for me, and that just shows you how unselfish this team really is. I was able to mix my pitches well and was able to go where I wanted to with them.
“We have a lot of strong pitchers on this team and I think any one of us will be ready when called on,” added Kelley. “I was happy to go out and show that I can contribute.”
In addition to Chesser’s big bat, UNI got a solo homer from Bunch and RBI hits from Tianna Drahn and Emma Valainis in the fourth inning.
“It was a good win for us today, especially after the butt whipping we took last night,” Panther coach Ryan Jacobs said. “It was good to see them bounce back and that was a question mark as to how they would respond.
“It was a great weekend with a lot of great competition, and today Hannah did a nice job against a quality hitting team.”
UNI 10, S. Dakota St. 2
S. Dakota St. 020 00 — 2 1 4
Northern Iowa 304 3x — 10 7 0
Taylor Compton, Emma Hardin (3) and Mallory McQuistan. Hannah Kelley and Ashley Chesser. WP—Kelley. LP—Compton. HR—Lyndsey Crist (SDS), Sammey Bunch (UNI), Chesser (UNI). 2B—Chesser (UNI), Tianna Drahn (UNI), Courtney Krodinger (UNI).