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College Softball: UNI defeats SE Missouri and Auburn; Heyer throws 150 pitches

Former Charles City standout Samantha Heyer allowed three runs and struck out 14 batters in a 150-pitch effort against SEMO.

AUBURN, ALABAMA – UNI softball extended its winning streak to four games on Saturday afternoon with a pair of victories at the Auburn Plainsman Invite. The Panthers began the afternoon with a 5-3 victory over Southeast Missouri State (SEMO), then picked up the program’s first victory over a ranked opponent in a decade with a 4-2 victory against No. 24 Auburn.

Alexis Pupillo continued her hot streak on Saturday with home runs in both contests, but Panther pitching again stole the show. Samantha Heyer (pictured at top via UNI Athletics) pitched a full seven innings, though was spelled briefly by Maddy McDermott, in the Panthers’ victory against SEMO. Heyer allowed three runs and struck out 14 batters in a 150-pitch effort.

Against the Tigers, Anna Wischnowski pitched the first complete game of her collegiate career to lead UNI to an upset win. Wischnowski had seven strikeouts, allowed six hits and surrendered two earned runs while throwing 123 pitches.

The victories improved UNI’s record to 7-2 on the season with two games remaining in the Plainsman Invite.

Game 1 | UNI 5 – SEMO 3

Pupillo kicked off the scoring in UNI’s first game of the day with a solo blast to center field. The home run marked Pupillo’s fifth of the season and gave the Panthers an early 1-0 lead.

That lead held for a majority of the contest thanks in large part to Heyer’s dominance in the circle. After a complete game no-hitter against Memphis on Wednesday night, Heyer kept SEMO’s offense in check for a majority of Saturday morning’s contest. Through five innings, Heyer had allowed just three hits and struck out 11 Redhawk batters.

However, the Panthers were unable to tack on any runs during that time as SEMO starting pitcher Paytience Holman largely kept UNI’s offense in check. In the top of the sixth inning, the Redhawks tied the game after stringing together consecutive hits before Heyer could record an out. Heyer settled in from there, though, and retired the next three SEMO hitters to keep the game knotted at one entering the bottom of the frame.

UNI’s offense exploded in the bottom of the sixth. The first three Panthers reached base before Holman struck out Gretta Hartz, who made her first start as a Panther on Saturday morning. That brought Savanna Jemilo to the plate, and she came through with a two-RBI double that put the Panthers back in front and chased Holman from the contest.

After a Daryn Lamprecht walk, Sanders kept the line moving with a two-out double of her own that ultimately stood as the game-winning hit. Sanders’ hit extended the Panthers’ lead to 5-1 entering the final inning.

The Redhawks did rally in the top of the seventh. Heyer recorded the first two outs of the inning with a walk sandwiched in-between, then Paige Halliwill hit a two-run home run that cut UNI’s lead in half. SEMO’s next batter, Aubrie Shore, singled up the middle which led to Heyer’s temporary removal.

McDermott allowed a walk, which brought the winning run to the plate, then Heyer reentered the contest and forced a popup that ended the game.

Game 2 | UNI 4 – No. 24 Auburn 2

The first three innings of the Panthers’ second game of the afternoon, which took place a half-hour following their victory over SEMO, played out like a classic pitchers’ duel.

Wischnowski got the start for the Panthers, while UNI had the daunting task of dealing with Auburn’s Maddie Penta, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year and a 2023 National Fastpitch Coaches Association First Team All-American.

Through three innings, it appeared that both pitchers would dominate the contest. Wischnowski allowed no hits and two baserunners through the first three innings of play, while Penta retired the first nine Panthers that reached the plate.

The Panthers got to Penta in the top of the fourth. The inning started with a leadoff walk from Sanders, then Pupillo blooped a single to left field to put two runners on. With Madison Parks at the plate, Sanders reached third on a passed ball. Sanders’ shrewd baserunning made an impact later in Parks’ at-bat.

Parks opened the scoring with a sharply-hit ground ball that the shortstop couldn’t field, which allowed Sanders to score from third and give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. The Panthers scored another run via error when Addison McElrath, the next batter of the inning, hit a ground ball to third base. Auburn third baseman Anna Wohlers sent the throw high which allowed Pupillo to score from second base.

UNI’s third and final run of the inning came with two outs in the frame. With runners at the corners and two outs Hartz, pinch running for McElrath, took off to steal second. The throw from Auburn’s catcher sailed past second base and Parks darted home, but Hartz was thrown out at third after Parks crossed home plate.

Wischnowski worked around a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth inning and neither side broke through for a run in the fifth. In the sixth inning, Pupillo provided a key insurance run with her second solo home run of the afternoon. She hammered a 1-2 offering from Penta over the right field wall to extend UNI’s lead to 4-0, a blast that marked Pupillo’s sixth of the season.

The Tigers picked up a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and had the game-tying run at the plate with two outs in the inning, but Wischnowski forced a groundout to get through the inning without any further damage.

Penta worked an efficient top of the seventh inning, but Wischnowski retired the Tigers in order in the home half of the inning to secure the upset victory. Wischnowski punctuated the effort with her sixth and seventh strikeouts of the game as she recorded the first complete game of her collegiate career.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Saturday afternoon’s win against No. 24 Auburn marked the third win over a ranked opponent in Panther softball history. UNI knocked off No. 24 Tulsa in 2013 and beat No. 10 Texas in 2014, which stood as the program’s two previous ranked victories before today.
Wischnowski pitched the first complete game of her collegiate career against the Tigers. She also matched her career high with seven strikeouts, a feat she also accomplished against Western Illinois on Feb. 9.
Hartz made her first start at the Division I level against SEMO on Saturday morning.
Heyer matched her season high of 14 strikeouts on Saturday against SEMO. She also had a 14-strikeout effort on Wednesday against Memphis.
Sanders’ two-RBI double against SEMO marked her first RBIs of the 2024 season.
After hitting a home run in each of the Panthers’ games on Saturday, Pupillo now has six blasts on the season and a team-high 14 RBIs.
Through three games at the Plainsman Invite, Pupillo has four home runs and 10 RBIs.
Pupillo accounted for both of UNI’s two hits against Auburn.
Sykora Smith made her first collegiate appearance as a pinch-runner against SEMO.

UP NEXT

The Panthers play two more games to round out the Auburn Plainsman Invite on Sunday. UNI faces SEMO at 11 a.m. and rounds out the weekend at 2 p.m. with another tilt against No. 24 Auburn. Sunday’s games will not be broadcast, but live stats will be available.

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