In a battle atop the Missouri Valley Conference the University of Northern Iowa softball team split a pair of games this afternoon with the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Sophomore pitcher Jamie Fisher took the circle to start game one looking to improve on her 18-2 record on the season. Fisher stymied the Salukis bats and locked up a one-hit shutout to earn his 19th win of the season. Fisher struck out eight Salukis in pitching her sixth shutout of the season. Fisher is 19-2 on the year with a league-leading 1.41 ERA.
At the plate the Panthers had trouble collecting hits off Southern Illinois' Katie Bertelsen. Samantha Reimer got the Panthers started in the second with a hit but was unable to make her way around the bases for a run.
Putting the Panthers on the board in the third inning was Melissa Walls who came out swinging at the first pitch she saw connecting for a homer just over the left field fence to give the Panthers a 1-0 advantage over the Salukis. Walls wasn't finished yet going 3-for-3 in the game with a pair of doubles, her second of which came in the seventh inning with a double to the left center wall sending Whitney Plein around the bases to put the Panthers up 2-0. The two-run advantage was plenty as Fisher silenced the Salukis' bats.
The Panthers got off to a slow start at the plate in game two but came out swinging in the second getting on the scoreboard early. Senior outfielder Allison Galvin got the bats going with an infield base hit to the third basemen. Galvin displayed her speed as she beat the throw. Julia Hunter stepped in next as she connected for a base hit which allowed Galvin to make it around the bags.
The Salukis were quick to retake the lead in the third getting three unearned runs across early after a few wild pitches and hit batters. Senior Jaye Hutcheson took the circle to start game two getting off to a bumpy start in the second but was quick to bounce back retiring nine straight batters.
The Salukis momentum at the plate continued through the game putting together seven runs in six innings. Hutcheson tossed just over five innings facing twenty nine batters, allowing five hits, three earned runs and struck out six Salukis before handing over the game ball to Jessica Severinsen in the sixth inning.
The Panthers and Salukis will wrap up the three-game series tomorrow afternoon at Noon at Charlotte West Stadium. With a win the Panthers can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before heading home to wrap up regular season play with a three-game series against Illinois State at Robinson Dresser Field in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
NOTES: UNI moved its record to 36-14 overall and 19-3 in the MVC. SIU is 32-15 and 15-7 in MVC action. UNI leads SIU in the MVC standings by four games with three games to play. Illinois State swept a pair vs. Creighton and is 3.5 games behind the Panthers with four to play. UNI's Jamie Fisher is two wins away from tying the UNI single-season record for victories. Sarah O'Byrne set the Panthers' single-season win record with 21 in 1990. Fisher tallied 20 wins in 2011 to rank No. 2 on the Panther' win list.