March 27, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team opened up Mid-American Conference play with an impressive two-game sweep over MAC East foe Akron Friday at Mary M. Bell Field.
NIU (7-17, 2-0) took the first game, 3-2, and won the nightcap, 4-3, in come-from-behind with a two-out walk-off single by Bailey Ouellette (Beaverton, Ore./Beaverton) in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"It's a great start," NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. "We talked a lot over the last week about the tide turning. If we do things the right way, if we keep preparing, stay focused and attacking all the time, then good things are going to happen. The kids worked so hard and they're very deserving of this."
Trailing 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh of the second game with two on and two out, Andrea Colosimo (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) stepped to the plate and delivered a single down the right field line, scoring Dani Thompson (Canyon Country, Calif./Canyon) from second, tying the game 3-3. Ouellette then entered the batter's box with a runner at third and the chance to give the Huskies the win. She came through in the clutch, lining the 2-2 pitch to right field, driving in Zoe Sinner (Downers Grove, Ill./Lake Land C.C.) to give NIU the victory and the sweep.
The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Akron (17-12, 0-2) with a run in the second and a run in the third. Sinner drove in NIU's first run of the game, singling to left field and scoring Emily Gooding (Lismore, Australia/Lake Land C.C.) from second. Carly Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) hit her third homer of the season, and second of the week, over the left field fence to give NIU a 2-0 lead after three innings. The Zips came back with three runs in the top of the fourth to go ahead 3-2.
Ouellette went 2-for-3 in game two with an RBI. Joreigh Landers (Vernonia, Ore./Vernonia), who came in to pitch in relief for Colosimo, picked up the victory (3-6) retiring all nine batters she faced.
In the first game, the Huskies did all their scoring in the third inning. Down 1-0, and with two outs, Jenna Roberts (Verona, Wis./West) got things going when she reached on an error and promptly stole second base, putting herself in scoring position. Colosimo then drove her in with a double to center. Ouellette stepped in a blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence to give NIU a 3-1 lead.
"Bailey had a great day," Chouinard. "She had four hits today, including two big ones for big runs. That's exactly what you want from your No. 4 hitter. That's exactly what you want her to do."
Freshman Morgan Bittner (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) picked up her second-straight win, going seven innings, allowing two runs, all unearned, on five hits and three walks and striking out three.
"Morgan's getting more comfortable," Chouinard said. "She's past being a freshman. She's pitching with maturity, confidence and poise. She's stepping up nicely."
Northern Illinois' weekend set with Ohio, which was originally scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, has been moved to a doubleheader Saturday. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. at Mary M. Bell Field.