Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State impresses at UNI Dome Tournament


Alexis Russell

Iowa State utility player Alesia Ranches gets ready to make a tag in Iowa State’s game against the University of Oklahoma on March 27. 

Anthony Hanson

Iowa State softball opened up the 2022 season by winning the Doc Halverson UNI Dome Tournament, playing against some of the region’s best teams. 

The Cyclones answered some off-season questions while in Cedar Falls and provided fans an important rematch to look forward to.

Questions answered

The departure of Sami Williams left a large question mark in the Cyclone’s offensive lineup.

Iowa State needs to replace 21 home runs, 56 RBI and 82 hits leaving due to graduation. Williams was an offensive force for Iowa State in its 2021 NCAA tournament run.

Could the returning Cyclones find runs without their former leader? At the UNI Dome Tournament, they had no issues. 

Iowa State outscored opponents 36-19 on 35 hits in five games. Iowa State had four players hit home runs on the weekend. Shortstop Alesia Ranches homered twice and drove in eight runs in 15 at bats. Eight Cyclone batters had extra base hits, and in total, the team’s slugging percentage sits at .481. 

Milaysia Ochoa was 7-for-18 with two doubles and five RBI on the weekend. Mikayla Ramos and Carli Spelhaug both produced two doubles and a home run while in Cedar Falls. 

Iowa State is showing it’s comfortable in the batter’s box from the very start of the season. As the Cyclones get more live at bats, expect the slugging numbers to only improve.

A well-rounded lineup is a goal for Iowa State, according to head coach Jamie Pinkerton who said replacing Williams would be a team effort. 

Playing the region’s best

Among the teams at the UNI Dome Tournament was Nebraska, a fellow power-five program, South Dakota State, who is the favorite in the Summit League, and Northern Iowa, who is the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference. 

Finding quality competition in the early season is difficult, especially in the Midwest region.

The UNI Dome Tournament was a perfect opportunity to compete with the best the region has to offer. 

Iowa State stepped up to this challenge and secured the outright tournament win with its 4-1 record. Iowa State’s only loss came to in-state rival Drake, whom the Cyclones will have a chance to rematch May 4 in Des Moines. 

Swain’s dominance

The surprise of UNI Dome tournament was the dominance of sophomore pitcher Saya Swain.

Swain started two games on the weekend for Iowa State and pitched a total of 10 innings. Against Omaha, Swain gave up six hits and one walk. She secured the win in four innings of work. 

But Swain would truly flex her muscles in the final game of the tournament against Northern Iowa.

Swain settled in the circle for six innings of exceptional pitching.

Swain tallied 17 strikeouts, four walks and four hits before leaving for the seventh inning. Swain’s dominance was enough to break the Iowa State single game record for strikeouts. Last season as a freshman, Swain only pitched 35 innings for Iowa State.

Last season, she recorded 26 strikeouts in total.

The improvement of Swain is a great sign for Iowa State. Adding another fixture to the staff of Karlie Charles and Ellie Spelhaug will give opposing lineups trouble as tournaments ramp up.