March 25, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - A two-run blast by Kayla Kramer (West Chicago, Ill./West Chicago) in the bottom of the fifth inning, helped the Northern Illinois University softball team earn its first win at home, defeating Valparaiso, 5-3, in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday afternoon at Mary M. Bell Field.
The Huskies (5-17) jumped out to a 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth after a RBI single by Bailey Ouellette (Beaverton, Ore./Beaverton) and a RBI groundout by Michelle Williams (Fresno, Calif./Fresno City C.C.). The Crusaders (17-8) responded with two runs in the top of the fifth to tie the contest at 2-2.
Emily Gooding (Lismore, Australia/Lake Land C.C.) reached on an error by the second baseman to lead off the bottom of the fifth. After a sacrifice by Dani Thompson (Canyon Country, Calif./Canyon) moved Kate Welsh (Wilmington, Ill./Bishop McNamara), who came in to pinch run for Gooding, into scoring position, Kramer belted her first home run of the season over the left field fence to give NIU a 4-2 lead.
"Our big motto going into today, and the rest of the season, was to attack," NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. "Attack defensively, attack from the mound and attack offensively and we did that in the first game. When we do that, it works for us. We score a lot of runs. It sets the tempo and keeps opponents on their heels."
The Huskies tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when freshman Carly Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) hit her second homer of the season, also going yard over the left field fence. Valpo added a run in the top of the seventh, but NIU was able to hold off the Crusaders for the victory.
Freshman Morgan Bittner (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) turned in one of her better outings of the season, going seven innings, allowing three runs, one earned, on four hits, striking out five and not giving up a walk.
"Morgan pitched very well," NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. "She's been getting better and better each day. It's a process with freshmen. It takes them a little while to get going. She's definitely pitching the way she's capable of."
The second game was all Crusaders. Valpo scored 13 runs on 14 hits defeating Northern Illinois, 13-1 in game two. The Crusaders scored seven runs in the first three innings and four in the fourth.
Northern Illinois wraps up its eight-game homestand this weekend when it opens up Mid-American Conference play with Akron for a doubleheader Friday at Mary M. Bell Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. The Ohio Bobcats then come into town for a weekend set Saturday and Sunday.
Papa John's will be tailgating at Friday's games with the Zips. Fans attending the game will be treated to free pizza in between games.