The University of Northern Iowa softball team clinched the 2012 regular season Missouri Valley Conference title this afternoon, capping a three-game series with a 5-0 win over Southern Illinois.
After splitting a pair of games on Saturday, the Panthers (37-14, 20-3 MVC) took game three with a 5-0 victory at Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. With the win the Panthers have locked up the No. 1 seed entering the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 10-12 back in Carbondale. The Panthers last conference title came in a three-way tie following the 2000 season (with Creighton and Evansville). This does mark the first outright MVC title in the program's history.
Sophomore pitcher Jamie Fisher took the circle in game three looking to improve on her 19-2 record after taking a 2-0 decision earlier on Saturday afternoon in game one of the series. Fisher was solid throughout the game tossing her seventh shutout of the season. Fisher allowed four hits and struck out two Salukis. With the win Fisher improves to a 20-2 record on the season which matches her career high in season wins. Fisher sits just one win away from tying a program high of 21 wins in a single season which was set by Sarah O’Byrne in 1990, the same year UNI reached the NCAA tournament.
At the plate the Panthers' offense erupted in the fourth getting four runs across to take a 4-0 advantage over the Salukis. Senior third basemen Whitney Plein played a key role in the Panthers' rally sending a three-run homer over the left field fence, her ninth on the season. Senior shortstop Mackenzie Daigh completed the scoring in the game by connecting for a solo home run in the top of the seventh. Daigh's homer gave the Panthers a 5-0 cushion heading into the bottom of the seventh, where Fisher was able to close out the victory and conference clinching regular season crown.
The Panthers will wrap up the regular season next weekend at Robinson Dresser Sports Complex with a three-game series with the Illinois State Redbirds. Following the series with the Redbirds the Panthers will return to Carbondale for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.