Iowa softball falls to Purdue in extra innings on senior day

The Boilermakers downed the Hawkeyes, 4-3, at Bob Pearl Field in Iowa City on Sunday.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa seniors Riley Sheehy and Kate Claypool stand with their families after a softball game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Bob Pearl Field in Iowa City on Sunday, May 8, 2022. The Hawkeyes fell to the Boilermakers 4-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

The Iowa softball team fell, 4-3, in extra innings to the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday at Bob Pearl Field. 

The series and season finale also marked senior day for Kate Claypool and Riley Sheehy, who were honored after the game. 

“I mean, they stuck with us,” head coach Renee Gillispie said of Claypool and Sheehy postgame. “It’s been a four-year battle through COVID and through injuries and those two have been the heart and soul of this team. Their energy every single day, their work ethic every single day. They were two leaders, they were examples of how to play hard. Can’t say enough about them. I’m just proud of both of them and excited about where their future is gonna go.”

Sheehy, who transferred to the Hawkeyes from USC Upstate in 2020, became a mainstay starter for Iowa. She started all 44 games of the 2021 season and 35 of the Hawkeyes’ 52 games in 2022.

After two years with the Iowa softball program, Sheehy said she’ll miss the camaraderie and the bond of the group. 

“I think what’s made the program what it is is the girls,” Sheehy said.  “I think we’ve overcome a lot together and been able to work through a lot of things and always have each other for support. So, at the end of the day, having them means the world and I’m going to miss them the most.”

The Hawkeyes fell behind in the top of the first inning after Purdue’s Tyrina Jones hit a three-run home run.

But the Hawkeyes battled back in the third, as Claypool and Sheehy both crossed the plate from a two-RBI single by sophomore Denali Loecker.

“Getting on base and scoring in the first two [Iowa] runs in the game was just a really special moment for us,” Sheehy told The Daily Iowan postgame. 

Iowa tied the game in the sixth inning when sophomore Grace Banes knocked in an RBI double.

Hawkeye starting pitcher Breanna Vasquez kept the Boilermakers quiet after the first inning, but Purdue scored the game-winning run in the eighth. Iowa didn’t commit a single error in Sunday’s contest.

Claypool’s great grab

On the first pitch of the top of the fifth inning, Purdue’s Alex Echazarreta smashed a Vasquez offering into center field. Claypool tracked the fly ball all the way to the center field wall, leaped up, and snatched it out of the air, robbing Echazarreta of an extra-base hit.

“I saw the ball in the air and I knew it was gonna hit the wall, but I just wanted to get it before it hit,” Claypool said. “It was a tight game, so I did whatever I could to catch it.”

From her viewpoint in left field, Sheehy couldn’t believe Claypool made the play. 

“I was just like, ‘holy s—, she caught the ball,’” Sheehy said. “It was just so cool to see. It was just a really sick play.”

Claypool said she made the best defensive play of her career in her last game as a Hawkeye. But when she reflects on her time with the softball program, she said, she’ll remember the times off the field more than the plays on it.

“I’ve made some of the best friends I’ll ever have and I’ll cherish the memories,” Claypool said. “It’s cliche, but they always say you won’t remember the wins and losses but I mean, especially this season didn’t go as planned, but I’ll remember the memories and the friendships I made and the smiles and laughs.” 

Dillinger honored

Following the game, assistant coach Rick Dillinger announced he will retire from the Iowa softball coaching staff. 

Dillinger has been a coach for 45 years and spent the past four seasons with the Hawkeyes. 

“We are excited for Rick and his retirement, but we will be missing an incredible coach,” Gillispie said in a release. “He’s been one of the top coaches in the state of Iowa for years. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Rick and his guidance. We are blessed that our Iowa softball players could get that opportunity and that he could be part of our Hawkeye family. He is going to be greatly missed, as a good friend and a fellow coach. It is going to be very tough to replace him.”

Dillinger was Gillispie’s softball coach at Danville Community School in Danville, Iowa, from 1976-79.

“I’ve been blessed to be on coach Gillispie’s staff,” Dillinger said in a release. “The game has been very wonderful to me, and I have been fortunate to work with some incredible kids. Of everything, that is going to be what I miss the most — the relationship with the kids. I am proud to be a Hawkeye, and I am proud of where the program is going. I can’t thank coach Gillispie enough for the opportunity.”

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