Des Moines, Iowa - The UNI softball team fell in 10 innings against intra-state rival Drake, 2-1, in the final game of the three-game series this afternoon to fall just short of completing the series sweep.
Drake's Torey Craddock drove in the game winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh Drake's Kelsey Kahler drove in the game tying run.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 13-10 in Missouri Valley Conference play and 30-22 overall, while the Panthers finish 15-11 in league play and 34-21 overall. The Panthers will head to State Farm MVC Softball Tournament (May 7-9) as the No. 3 seed and will play the winner of the No. 6/7 seed game Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. The Bulldogs, the defending MVC Tournament champions, will be seeded fourth.
In the pitcher's circle Drake's Jenna DeLong (19-11) earned the win after striking out 14 Panther batters and tossing a complete game five-hitter. UNI ace Jen Larsen pitched the first two innings and scattered no hits before turning over the pitching duties to Jaye Hutcheson and Melissa Tillett. Hutcheson was stellar in her seven innings of work striking out a career high six batters, scattering four hits and allowing one earned run. Tillett (7-9) came in to pitch the 10th inning and took the loss after pitching 2/3 of an inning. Tillett allowed two hits and one run.
To start the game, UNI junior Rachel Gerking added another RBI to her MVC and UNI single-season records after her double drove in freshman Mackenzie Daigh in the top of the first inning to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Gerking, the Panthers cleanup hitter, has produced a hit in 16 of the last 17 games and driven in 58 RBI on the year.
Despite making one error in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Panthers and Hutcheson were able to get out of the inning with no damage done on the scoreboard. With one out and runners on second and third Hutcheson forced two of the Bulldogs top hitters (Elena Bly and DeLong) to line out and ground out to end the inning.
After going scoreless for five straight innings the Panthers placed runners on second and third in the top of the seventh inning, but still came up empty handed. Junior Samantha Waters led off the inning with single, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball and freshman Kim Wachholder walked and stole second. However, freshman Leah Embrey struck out to end the inning and diminish the Panthers scoring chances.
Notes: The 3rd place MVC finish by the Panthers this season is the second best MVC finish in school history, only the 2000 Panther team that tied for the conference title has finished higher...The Panthers were picked in the preseason poll to finish last in the MVC...The Panthers were not swept in a three-game series by any Valley opponent for the first time since the league switched to the three-game format in 2001...UNI junior Rachel Gerking tallied a hit in 16 of the last 17 Panther games...Gerking has driven in 58 runs this season, which is a MVC and UNI single-season record...The Panthers have hit 52 home runs this season, which is a UNI single-season and record and ranks tied for fourth on the MVC all-time team home run list...UNI junior Samantha Waters stole her 13th base of the year, which is the most stolen bases in a season by a Panther since 2002...The Panthers and Bulldogs went extra innings in three of their four meetings this season...The Panthers are 6-3 in extra inning games...The 34 wins this season ranks tied for fourth on UNI's single-season wins list.
Up Next: The Panthers will head to the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference (May 7-9) for the first time since 2002. The Panthers will be one of eight teams in the field playing for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at the EastSide Centre. The Panthers are locked in as the No.
3 seed and will play Thursday night (May 7) at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the No. 6 and No. 7 seed game that will be played at 1:30 p.m.
on Thursday. The Panthers have only won the MVC Tournament once in school history in 1990.