Dominant pitching leads Iowa State softball past Kirkwood

Freshmen righthander Emma Hylen throws a pitch in a 17-0 Cyclone loss to the Baylor Lady Bears.

Trevor Holbrook

Last season, Iowa State softball had the luxury of then-sophomore pitcher Emma Hylen’s breakout season.

This season, the Cyclones look to utilize their pitching depth for more options behind Hylen. Two strong performances from Iowa State pitchers shows promise for Iowa State.

Often times, the first inning can be the toughest for a pitcher to settle into the game. Senior pitcher Brianna Weilbacher experienced that first-hand on Saturday morning against the Kirkwood Eagles.

Weilbacher began the game with a four-pitch walk. After a strikeout, Weilbacher tossed a wild pitch, putting a runner in scoring position.

“I thought early on we’re still walking too many people,” said coach Jamie Pinkerton. “We’re giving too many free passes. We can’t allow leadoff walks to get on. They usually turn into runs.”

Kirkwood’s third hitter took advantage of Weilbacher’s mistakes, lacing a double into the right-centerfield gap.

Down 1-0, Weilbacher regrouped, picking up a second strikeout. Junior catcher Kaylee Bosworth assisted Weilbacher by throwing out a runner between second and third base.

“[My mindset was] to come back and get the next one and not worry about her,” Weilbacher said after giving up the first run.

After stumbling in the first inning, Weilbacher settled down. Weilbacher dominated the second, third and fourth inning, allowing zero hits.

In the fifth inning, Pinkerton handed the pitching duties to junior pitcher Savannah Sanders.

Sanders faced some of the same problems that Weilbacher did. Sanders allowed the bases to get loaded, but the right-handed pitcher escaped the jam with three strikeouts in the inning.

From that point on, it was smooth sailing for Sanders. Sanders finished the game without allowing anymore runs from the Eagles.

“I think just going in and trying to get outs [helped me], not trying strikeout, not trying to walk too many people,” Sanders said.

Along with the dominant pitching, the Cyclones hit the ball well. Not only did they hang nine runs on the scoreboard, but they also finished the game with a handful of doubles and triples.

A strong offense can be a pitcher’s best friend, relieving some of the pressure.

Weilbacher and Sanders accumulated the second and third most innings pitched for the Cyclones in 2016, combining for just over 229 innings.

Sanders sported a 4.16 era, while Weilbacher maintained a 4.24 era. Weilbacher also had a team-high 163 strikeouts last season, but she also struggled with command at times, finishing the season with a team-high 118 walks.

Pinkerton cited his concerns about walks from the pitching duo, but overall, the new coach was impressed.

“[Weilbacher] settled in and pitched two really nice innings,” Pinkerton said. “I told her if she throws like that all the time, we’re going to win a lot of games. Savannah came in and did a great job putting zeros on the board.”