ISU softball fall short of rallying for win against Omaha

Ben Paulus

After sweeping Tuesday’s double-header against North Dakota, the Iowa State softball team welcomed Nebraska-Omaha to Ames with an opportunity for the Cyclones to get back to .500 on the season.

Iowa State (20-21, 1-8 Big 12) entered the contest shorthanded, missing a couple familiar faces in its lineup. Freshman pitcher Katie Johnson, who has started 31 games on the mound for the Cyclones, missed her sixth consecutive game due to an undisclosed illness as Iowa State fell 3-2 to the Mavericks (22-15, 4-5 Summit) on April 16.

The ISU right fielder, senior Sarah Hawryluk, missed her third consecutive game after injuring her back during Monday’s practice.

“We hope to have both Johnson and Hawryluk back by next week,” said ISU coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “As far as preparation goes, [the injuries] really give some players opportunities to step up.”

Filling in for Johnson, junior Paris Imholz started her ninth game on the season for the Cyclones.

The Mavericks got to Imholz early and after a leadoff double and error by left fielder Liana Henry, Omaha had runners on second and third with no outs. After a pair of outs, the Mavericks’ designated hitter, Lizzie Noble, put the Cyclones down 2-0 with a two-run base hit.

The Cyclones had a tough matchup hitting against UNO pitcher Dana Elsasser. Elsasser entered the game with an 18-7 record as well as a .195 opponent batting average.

Iowa State had an opportunity to answer against Elsasser with a rally in the second inning.

After a pair of singles by Jorden Spendlove and Sara Rice, a walk to Maddie Reese loaded the bases. Brittany Gomez, leading the Cyclones in batting with a .407 batting average, struck out for the second time on the day stranding the runners.

Omaha added another run in the fourth inning to make it 3-0. The Mavericks scored on a base hit by second baseman Tara Trede.

After falling behind to start, Iowa State was able to answer in the bottom of the fourth inning. Following a single down the first base line by Rachel Hartman, Jordan Spendlove continued her hot streak sending a double off the left field wall bringing Hartman for the Cyclones’ first run.

“The biggest thing for me is being able to come through for my team,” Spendlove said. “I’ve been getting my hand through quickly and I’ve been working on getting my hips through as well, so I can drive the ball.”

The ISU bats continued rolling in the bottom of the fifth. After a leadoff double by Sara Davison, her second of the day, Aly Cappaert brought in the second run for Iowa State on a base hit.

The Cyclones had yet another bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning down by a lone run. Liana Henry hit a chopper to the catcher before being tagged out for the final out of the inning, effectively ending the rally.

Imholz was able to settle in after the first inning allowing only one run on five hits over the last six innings.

“I just felt really confident today,” Imholz said. “Despite the wind, I still felt I had a lot of good power on my pitches and a lot of snap as well.”

Down by a run with two outs in the sixth inning, the Cyclones had another opportunity to score after they got a pair of runners on base.

After a single by Gomez and walk by Davison, Iowa State was unable to tie the ballgame. Lexi Slater grounded out to the second baseman nullifying another rally for the Cyclones.

Heading into the bottom of the seventh still down a run, yet again the Cyclones stranded the tying run on base.

“Our Achilles this year has been that we’ve continued to leave people on base,” said Gemeinhardt-Cesler. “We just need to get excited about it and drive them in.”