UNI’s special season includes breaking program’s home run record and MVC regular season title
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - In their sweep over Indiana State, the Northern Iowa softball team locked up their first conference regular season title since 2017.
“That’s the first thing we talk about in the fall. That’s our number one goal. One, because it’s a championship, but two because it’s super hard to win 20 games in our league,” said UNI softball head coach Ryan Jacobs. “The coaches have been there for forever, they know each other inside and out and the games are always competitive,” he said.
Coming off a season that ended in the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers have already matched their conference win total from last season. They sit 20-1 with three conference games remaining. In the process, they strung together 16 consecutive victories which is a new school record.
“It was just a lot of fun with this group of kids,” said Jacobs. “We just kept doing the same thing over and over, every single day and just trying to get better. Good things were happening.”
“It’s easy to focus on the outside noise, so we’ve been really intentional about staying to our family and just doing work every single day,” added redshirt sophomore Samantha Heyer.
This Panther team can swing the bat. Emmy Wells who leads UNI in home runs with 17 knocked out the team’s 62nd on the year which is also a new record.
“Breaking the record for home runs this season is just impressive. I know as a team we just focus on hitting doubles every at bat. Scoring people and doubles score runs,” said redshirt sophomore Sammy Moss.
“We’re not shooting to hit home runs. It’s our intent to hit doubles, get extra base hits, that’s just a byproduct of us having confidence at the plate and doing our job,” said Heyer.
UNI had their double digit win streak snapped by in-state rival Iowa in their final home game of the regular season, but they didn’t seem too rattled.
“I like the look on our faces after the game. It wasn’t a crushing thing. We just took this game as another game. It wasn’t anything bigger than it needed to be. That’s really the mentality we have to have going into the rest of the season. Especially when we go into the conference tournament where it’s one and you could be done,” explained Jacobs.
The Panthers haven’t lost sight of their ultimate goal with tournament time right around the corner.
“We all want a ring,” said Moss. “We’ve graduated all the seniors so far that have won a ring, so now it’s time to bring up a new generation of people.”
The Panthers visit Bradley for a three-game road series beginning Saturday. First pitch of the their doubleheader is set for noon.
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