Long-ball carries Northern Iowa over Iowa State


Iowa State Athletic Communications

Saya Swain winds up to throw a pitch against the University of Northern Iowa in Game 2 of the NCAA Columbia Regional on May 22. (Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletic Communications)

Anthony Hanson

Iowa State softball lost its first home game of the 2022 season Wednesday afternoon.

Five home runs from in-state rival Northern Iowa powered the Panthers over the Cyclones by a score of 12-4. With strong winds blowing out to left-center field, Northern Iowa hitters used the long-ball to drive in 10 runs. 

Iowa State was the only team in the Big 12 and one of seven in the nation to not play a home game entering the game. The Cyclones lost their home opener in a mercy-rule shortened five inning game. 

“We knew there were going to be home runs today,” Iowa State Head Coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “We weren’t able to elevate the ball.”

Wind gusts were around 30 miles per hour during the contest.

Rise-ball pitchers Karlie Charles and Saya Swain shouldered pitching duties for the Cyclones. Iowa State’s innings pitched leader and down-ball pitcher Ellie Spelhaug was not available for Wednesday’s game. 

“That’s not a good recipe if they barrel up the ball,” Pinkerton said. 

Northern Iowa starting catcher Emmy Wells homered twice to left and left-center field in each of her at bats. The sophomore ended with five RBI. Wells reached by intentional walk in her last plate appearance.

Centerfielder Madison Parks added home runs in the fourth and fifth innings to pad the Northern Iowa lead. The Panthers totaled 10 hits in the game to seven by the Cyclones. 

Four Cyclone errors added to damage as four of six runs allowed by Charles were unearned. 

Swain relieved Charles to start the third inning with Northern Iowa up 6-2. After allowing the third home run of the game to Wells, Swain proceeded to strike out four consecutive Northern Iowa hitters. In the Feb. 13 matchup of the teams, Swain struck out a single game school record 17 batters.

“They didn’t string hits against her [Swain],” Pinkerton said. “She left a couple pitches up, and they got it into the jet stream.”

Swain ended with six strikeouts and allowed just four hits. Of Swain’s four hits allowed, three cleared the outfield fence for home runs. 

Swain remains the Cyclone pitching staff’s strikeout leader after the loss to Northern Iowa. Swain moved her total to 88 strikeouts in 18 appearances. 

Northern Iowa starting pitcher Kailyn Packard struck out six Cyclones while earning the complete game win. Packard, who has a 1.59 ERA, added another strong showing against Iowa State to her career. 

In the NCAA regional last season, Packard started in Northern Iowa’s 8-0 win over Iowa State. The junior went all five innings and allowed one hit in that postseason matchup.

Packard allowed Mikayla Ramos and Angelina Allen to score in the first, then pitched three innings of shut out softball. Spelhaug added a triple in the second, and Allen’s third inning double nearly cleared the fence in right field.

In the fifth inning, Iowa State rallied to score two runs. Singles from Spelhaug and Allen allowed a sacrifice fly from Alesia Ranches to score a run. 

Then, a single from Milaysia Ochoa brought in another run. Pinkerton opted to send baserunner Kaylee Pond home to score from second on the play. A replay review confirmed Pond was thrown out at the plate to end the game in five innings. 

Iowa State fell to 19-17 with the loss. The Cyclones are on a seven-game losing streak, the longest of 2022. 

Iowa State will play again from home Friday evening. No. 6 ranked Oklahoma State will begin a three-game set with the Cyclones. Iowa State will face Oklahoma State on one day of rest.