Cyclones face Northern Iowa in home opener


Zachary D. Bland

Then-senior Skyler Ramos hits against the Northern Iowa Panthers on May 22, 2021 in the NCAA Columbia Regional.

Anthony Hanson

The home opener is here for Iowa State softball.

After 35 consecutive games away from Ames, Iowa State softball plays Northern Iowa at the Cyclone Sports Complex on Wednesday afternoon. Iowa State is the last team in the Big 12 to play its home opener.

The in-state rival Panthers come to Ames after Iowa State began its Big 12 conference schedule with three losses to Texas in Austin.

Iowa State head coach Jamie Pinkerton’s team faces Northern Iowa on a six-game losing streak, the longest of the team’s 2022 season.

“At this point in the season, all games are big,” Pinkerton said. “The significance is we get another chance to play. We got another opportunity to get better.”

Two games in Austin were decided in walk-off fashion in favor of the Longhorns. Friday night, Iowa State led entering the seventh before a three-run home run ended an upset attempt. The next night, Texas again took the game on the game’s final play.

Iowa State challenged a talented Texas pitching staff with 24 hits through three games.

But, at key moments, Cyclone runners didn’t find their way across the plate. The Cyclones forced Texas starter Estelle Czech out of the game in the first inning of game one.

On Saturday, Iowa State scored five runs off All-American third-teamer Hailey Dolcini. Iowa State batted .250 with runners in scoring position while in Austin for the Big 12 opener.  

“They’re frustrated,” Pinkerton said of his team. “But all we can do is come back and just work on it.”

When working, visualization is the keyword for sophomore Kaylee Pond. Pond was four for 11 with two RBI against Texas from the cleanup spot in the Cyclone lineup. She knocked in both runs of Iowa State’s 7–2 loss April 3.

The walk-off losses sting, Pond said. But while practicing from Iowa State’s indoor facility, the designated player and infielder will visualize everything from the runner on base to touching the infield dirt.

“You have to make it as game-like as you can,” Pond said.

Pond, who redshirted last season, will play in her first Iowa State home game Wednesday. Pond will be joined by freshman Angelina Allen as the only members of the lineup playing their first game in Ames.

Iowa State is the only team in the Big 12 and one of seven in the nation yet to play a home game. 

“I can only imagine what our environment’s going to be like,” Allen said. “I’m just excited to see familiar faces cheering us on.”

For context, Texas had played 16 games on its home diamond before its series with Iowa State.

The forecast indicates a cold, windy environment for Wednesday’s game. The Cyclones themselves have had limited opportunities to practice outside in 2022, according to Pinkerton.

Iowa State and Northern Iowa faced each other in the opening tournament of 2022. Iowa State won 5–4 Feb. 13 from the Panther’s UNI-Dome, an indoor environment.

Northern Iowa comes off a game against Missouri State from its own Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex. Catcher Emmy Wells contributed a walk-off home run in the 1–0 Panther win. Two games of the series with Missouri State were canceled due to rain and snow.

On the year, Northern Iowa has a 14–11 record.

“We’re not going to settle,” Pond said about an emotional series in Texas. The sophomore said that the team is taking “little moral victories” from the Texas trip, but being one out away from a marquee win in back-to-back nights leaves a sour taste.

The first pitch is at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Cyclone Sports Complex in Ames. The game can be streamed on ESPN+. 

“I feel like the next time this happens, we’ll be ready to close the door and get the win instead,” Pond said.