ISU softball prepares for ‘scrappy’ Northern Iowa

Senior catcher Sammie Hildreth goes to tag Baylor senior catcher Robin Landrith at the plate.

Curran Mclaughlin

Traveling can be a burden for collegiate sports teams because it means tighter schedules, managing homework and not practicing on certain days.

But when the road game is an hour and a half away and in-state, that’s a different animal. Teams can focus more on the game in front of them. 

Iowa State will travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to face Northern Iowa (24-11, 4-4 MVC) on Wednesday as part of a weeklong road game slate. It will be the Cyclones’ second game in two days after traveling to Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday to play Drake.

Even though the Iowa rivalry is undoubtedly the CyHawk series, Northern Iowa is always looking to stick it to the two bigger schools.

“I think they’re really scrappy,” said ISU softball coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler, who recalled past games against the Panthers. “Any time we play Drake, UNI and Iowa we definitely feel [the] rivalry.”

Northern Iowa has talented pitchers in junior Alyssa Buchanan and senior Chelsea Ross. They have split the workload between each other, with Ross having pitched in 22 games and Buchanan in 19.

The duo also leads the team in batting. Ross is hitting .407 and Buchanan is entering the game at a .362 clip. 

Gemeinhardt-Cesler said the entire UNI team is solid all around, but it doesn’t make a difference to the Cyclones.

“We always face good hitters and good pitchers,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “It doesn’t change how we approach them.”

But the rivalry is fueling some players, even though the game plan doesn’t change. 

“We want to prove we are the best team in Iowa,” said senior Sammie Hildreth. “It’s another competitor and we want to win. I think of this [as just] another team.”

The distance may be shorter, but the Cyclones aren’t focusing on the other team. Gemeinhardt-Cesler said it’s always about working on their own game, not worrying about players like Buchanan and Ross.  

Sophomore Nychole Antillon said the goal is the same against Northern Iowa as any other team.

“Put the hammer on them,” Antillon said. “Go strong and do whatever I need to do to help my team get the win.”