Iowa softball completes comeback, takes home National Invitational Softball Championship title

The Hawkeyes scored five runs with two outs in the seventh inning to defeat the BYU Cougars, 9-7, in the championship game on Saturday.


Darren Chen

Iowa infielder Grace Banes hits the ball during a softball game between Iowa and Northern Iowa at Bob Pearl Softball Field on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. The Panthers defeated the Hawkeyes, 4-2.

Kenna Roering, Sports Editor

Iowa softball scored five runs with two outs in the seventh inning to defeat BYU, 9-7, and take home the National Invitational Softball Championship title on Saturday night.

Iowa came into the eight-team tournament in Fort Collins, Colorado, as the No. 2 seed and defeated UC Davis, South Dakota State, and Maryland en route to the championship game. 

The Hawkeyes finished the season 35-27 — their most single-season wins since 2008-09 when Iowa went 42-16. 

“What a way to end the season,” Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie said following the win over the Cougars. “I am so proud of the fight we showed in the game. We were down to our final out and we did not give up. We had some extremely clutch hits throughout the game from starters and off the bench. We have a lot to be proud of after this tournament, and we are excited to be bringing the trophy back to Iowa.”

How it happened

Saturday’s championship game was a power showcase.

Iowa struck first against BYU with a solo shot from junior Grace Banes in the top of the second inning.

The Cougars responded with a SAC fly in the bottom of the second frame to tie it, but Hawkeye junior and left fielder Brylee Klosterman gave Iowa the lead back with a two-run long ball in the fourth inning.

Banes, who was named tournament MVP, continued her hot streak at the plate with her second dinger of the game in the fourth frame to put the Hawkeyes up three.

But, BYU didn’t throw in the towel and knotted the game at four with a three-run home run to straightaway center. The Cougars capitalized on a throwing error by the Hawkeyes in the bottom half of the sixth inning and took a 7-4 advantage.

With two outs and a championship title on the line, the Hawkeyes rallied.

Junior Sammy Diaz drew a walk and Klosterman followed with a single to left field. Sophomore Tristin Doster came off the bench and hit a double to get Iowa within one.

With the Hawkeyes down to their last strike, freshman Anna Streff powered a pinch-hit RBI triple off the right field wall to tie the game.

Center fielder Tatianna Roman gave Iowa the lead on an infield single, and the Hawkeyes tacked on an insurance run to lead, 9-7, heading into the bottom of the seventh frame.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Jalen Adams started the semifinal game against Maryland on Saturday afternoon and the championship game against BYU.

In the semifinal, Adams went five innings, allowing no runs on two hits with two strikeouts. In the championship, she threw five innings and gave up six runs on seven hits with two punch outs. 

The future 

The Hawkeyes are expected to return several key players next season, including Adams, freshman Tory Bennett, and junior Denali Loecker.

Adams, who was named to the NISC All-Tournament team, led the Hawkeyes this season with 159.2 innings pitched and a 2.02 ERA.

“Winning the NISC shows everyone how much Iowa softball has to offer,” Adams said in a statement. “We have grown so much this season, and I am so proud of my team. I can’t wait to see what’s to come for the Hawkeyes in years to come.”

Bennett started all 62 contests for the Hawkeyes at shortstop and hit .303 with 25 RBIs.

Loecker is tied for fifth all-time at Iowa with 24 home runs and tied the school record with nine saves this season. She was also named to the NISC All-Tournament team.

Iowa will have to replace fifth-year senior and pitcher Breanna Vasquez on the bump next season. Vasquez started 54 games for the Hawkeyes and registered 405 strikeouts over her career.

Seniors Nia Carter and Kalena Burns have one year of eligibility remaining because of COVID-19, but their plans are unknown at this time.

Carter was the final Hawkeye to be named to the NISC All-Tournament team. Her 101 hits this year made her just the second player in Big Ten history to record at least 100 hits in a single season, joining Ohio State’s Anna Smith, who had 105 in 2002.

Carter hit .415 over her four seasons, breaking Iowa’s individual career batting record. The record was held by four-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and shortstop Megan Blank, who hit .410 in her Hawkeye campaign from 2012-15.

Carter said on April 18 that she is in the transfer portal and is unsure where she will spend her final collegiate season. The Rancho Cucamonga, California, native said she has no location preference and would like to stay with the Hawkeyes if possible.

“It was due to money reasons,” Carter said about entering the transfer portal. “I’m going to have a meeting with the coaches at the end of the year just to see where that still stands, but nothing is final yet.”