Fishers help UNI earn second-ever NCAA tourney bid

CEDAR FALLS – On the strength of Saturday’s 2-1 win over Evansville in the Missouri Valley Conference chamiponship game, the Northern Iowa softball team earned an automatic berth into the 2013 NCAA Softball Tournament.

And with the victory, UNI pitcher Jamie Fisher became the school’s career wins leader – as a junior.

Fisher struck out five and walked four in a five-hitter, allowing one unearned run as the Panthers picked up their second-ever NCAA tournament berth (1990). The BCLUW High School graduate improved to 21-13, matching the Panthers’ single-season wins record, after getting all three pitching victories in the circle during UNI’s run to the MVC tournament title.

It moved her career wins total to 61, surpassing the previous record as held by Sarah O’Byrne (1987-90). Fisher’s 21st win ties O’Byrne’s single-season mark as well.

Fisher’s fourth shutout of the season came Friday as UNI knocked off top-seeded Creighton 1-0 on the Bluejays’ home diamond at the CU Sports Complex in Omaha, Neb. The game’s only run came on a solo home run by designated player Nicole Fisher, Jamie’s twin sister, on the first pitch of the game from MVC Pitcher of the Year Becca Changstrom.

Jamie Fisher struck out 12 and walked just one in her complete-game four-hitter, while Nicole’s round-tripper was her team-leading eighth of the season.

Both former BCLUW standouts were honored earlier in the week with selection to one of the all-Missouri Valley Conference squads. Jamie was named to the first team for the third year in a row after being the league’s Pitcher of the Year in 2012. Heading into the NCAA tournament, Jamie Fisher is 21-13 with a 1.92 earned run average and 191 strikeouts in 233 1/3 innings.

Nicole Fisher, who transfered in after two stellar seasons at Kirkwood Community College, earned second-team all-conference selection. She is hitting .290 with 28 runs, 31 hits, six doubles, eight homers and 16 RBIs. Nicole leads the Panthers with a .570 slugging percentage, 22 walks and a .411 on-base percentage.

The two juniors from Conrad and the rest of the Northern Iowa softball squad will return to action on Friday in Lincoln, Neb., with a first-round NCAA tournament game against regional host Nebraska.

The 14th-seeded Cornhuskers (40-13) finished second in the Big Ten Conference and earned one of the league’s four postseason berths. It’s Nebraska’s 21st trip to the NCAA tournament, and its fourth in the last five years.

The 64-field NCAA tournament field is divided into 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals which begin Thursday. The 16 regional champions advance to super regionals, where eight will emerge as qualifiers for the Women’s College World Series.