Redbirds Give up Four Runs in Seventh, Suffer 5-4 Loss to UNI
May 3, 2008
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Sophomore third baseman Kara Nelson and sophomore first baseman Michelle Henderson each hit solo home runs, but seventh-inning defensive miscues allowed Northern Iowa to score four runs with two outs in the frame, as the Illinois State softball team (26-19 overall, 15-7 Missouri Valley Conference) suffered a 5-4 loss to the Panthers (20-26, 5-14 MVC) Saturday afternoon at Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The loss was ISU's first against UNI since April 18, 2001, and snapped the Redbirds' season-long six-game winning streak.
Trailing 4-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, UNI's comeback started when Kelly Papesh hit a solo home run over the right-field fence with two outs in the frame to cut the Redbird lead to 4-2. A Redbird defensive miscue led to another Panther run in the inning, as a groundball up the middle deflected off pitcher Amber Smith and went to Henderson at first base. She then errantly threw the ball over Nelson at third base in an attempt to pick off the lead Panther runner, which led to UNI's second run of the inning. After Nelson made a fielding error at third base, an RBI single up the middle by Stephanie Aguero drove in another UNI run. The game ended one batter later when a bases-loaded wild pitch scored Aguero and gave UNI its come-from-behind victory over ISU.
Smith (13-8) suffered her first loss in her last six appearances, as she allowed five Panther runs (two earned) on six hits over 6 2/3 innings pitched. Despite earning the loss for ISU, the right-hander from Fairfield, Calif., looked solid through the first six innings of the game, as she scattered just two hits until the seventh inning.
UNI starting pitcher Ashley Lepley (9-9) earned the complete-game win for the Panthers after she allowed four ISU runs and surrendered eight hits. Lepley did not own a lead at any point while physically in the circle, but was still credited with the victory, as she was the pitcher of record when the Panthers recorded their decisive fifth run in seventh inning.
ISU got consistent hitting throughout its lineup, as six of the Redbirds' nine batters recorded at least one hit in the game. The Redbirds were led at the plate by Nelson and Henderson, as along with their solo home runs, Henderson picked up a double in the game, while Nelson singled. Nelson has now hit safely in a career-high 13-straight games.
Nelson got ISU's offense started early when she hit a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning. Nelson's homer was her third of the season and marked the first time this year that the Redbirds have led off a game with a home run.
UNI came right back in its half of the first inning, as leadoff batter Megan Machovec lined a triple into the right-center field gap. One batter later, the Panthers tied the game at 1-1 when Stephanie Aguero's RBI single through the right side plated Machovec.
In what was quickly becoming more of an offensive than defensive game, Illinois State fired back for two runs in the top of the second. Two singles in the inning by junior catcher Casey Gorrell and junior center fielder Katie Mathis gave way to an RBI double by senior second baseman Tiffany Prager, which scored Gorrell and put the Redbirds back up by a run (2-1). Prager's double was the 33rd of her career, which moved her into a tie for sixth-place all-time at Illinois State in career doubles.
After ISU loaded the bases later in the inning via a walk to Nelson, Smith hit a shallow sacrifice fly ball to center field that scored Mathis. ISU's power surge continued in the top of the third inning, as Henderson ripped a one-out solo home run over the left-center field fence that put the Redbirds up, 4-1.