CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- A stadium was steeped in silence before the University of Northern Iowa softball team competed against in-state rival University of Iowa.
The Panthers, the university and its fans paid tribute to the life of former teammate, Micalla Rettinger.
Rettinger was shot and killed while driving on Highway 218 in Waterloo early Sunday morning.
"It's an opportunity to honor her and come out and play hard just like she did and just like she would do," said Jerek Wolcott, the assistant athletics director of communications for UNI.
In the same spot in the lineup that the two-time all-conference center fielder and leadoff hitter Rettinger dug in, current leadoff hitter Brittney Krodinger turned the sound of heartbreak into a home run in the first inning. "It's a welcomed distraction. It is something they can focus on and not have to let their mind wander and think about what happened," Wolcott said.
Although opponents on the field, the Hawkeyes extended their condolences with flowers. "The outpouring has just been amazing across the board with people. They are really affected when somebody's life is taken way too early," said Wolcott.
A 2016 graduate and biology major, Rettinger's youthful legacy extended off the field. UNI softball fan and youth softball coach Clint Fuller said, "At camps and at softball schools, she was obviously the one everyone gravitated towards because of her personality."
UNI players are wearing a sticker with the initials "KK12" on their batting helmets. They affectionately called her the nickname as she rounded the bases. Many agree this tragedy brought Micalla home far too soon. "I think it shows that KK's memory is with them forever," said Fuller. Wolcott added, "Those are the student-athletes that are really special and so when you lose somebody like that it is a gut punch and it is hard to handle."
UNI defeated Iowa 4-2 in the Panthers final home game of the season.