Feb. 7, 2014
FAU "Kickoff Classic" Tournament Central
BOCA RATON, Fla. - The Northern Illinois University softball team split its first two games at the FAU "Kickoff Classic" to open the 2014 season Friday.
The Huskies (1-1) suffered a 7-1 setback to No. 18 Louisville in the season opener and picked up their first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over the host Florida Atlantic Owls.
Sophomore Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest), who came to NIU via Radford University, made a good first impression on her teammates with a first-pitch three-run homer in the first inning of NIU's win over FAU. After one-out singles by Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) and Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) put runners at first and third, Naegele homered to left to give the Huskies all the offense it would need.
Naegele went 2-for-3 in the game with three runs batted in and a run scored.
"She's pretty dialed in," said NIU head coach Christine Sutcliffe on Naegele's performance. "She's a good student of the game. She learns from at bat to at bat. She just got a pitch she could drive."
Junior pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) took over from there, holding the Owl offense in check, allowing two runs on four hits, with FAU scoring a two-run fourth inning. With the tying run at third with two outs in the top of the seventh, Sturm coaxed Lindsey Shell to ground out to shortstop and end the game.
"Jess has always done a really good job against a team that has some speed," Sutcliffe said. "Her ability to move the ball away from the lefty slappers, yet keep them honest with the inside is kind of her MO, being able to work both sides of the plate against the slapper."
Sturm went the distance, allowing two runs, both earned on four hits and walking three.
Louisville jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in the first and second innings. NIU scored its first run of the season in the top of the sixth after Kopp hit a two-out double to left and scored when she advanced to third on a wild pitch, then took home on a second wild pitch. The Cardinals then tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the frame.
"We just had too many defensive mistakes when you're playing a Top 20 team," she said of the first game of the year. "You can't do that. You have to keep every inning to three outs and get off the field. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that a couple times today."
The Huskies return to the diamond tomorrow at 8 a.m. when NIU faces Ohio State before facing St. John's at 10 a.m. Both times are Central. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.