April 25, 2014
KSU 0-NIU 2 Box Score
KSU 7-NIU 5 Box Score
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team split its doubleheader with Kent State in Mid-American Conference softball action at Mary M. Bell Field Friday.
NIU (20-25, 8-8) posted a 2-0 shutout in game one behind another strong pitching and solid defense. However, the Huskies' comeback effort came up short in a 7-5 12-inning setback to Kent State (22-16, 8-4).
"We into today trying to win both obviously because we haven't done a great job at that," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "We definitely put a better effort into the second game than we have been doing.
"The first game was a pitcher's duel. Jess did an awesome job in that game. She had first and second with no outs several times and was able to pitch out of it. The second game kind of became a slugfest. The ball was flying out of here."
Pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) was strong in the circle once again, scattering seven hits and a walk as she threw a complete game shutout. It was the fifth complete game shutout of her career and the third this season. Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) provided all the offense for NIU, driving in both runs, including one on a perfectly executed squeeze play.
NIU jumped on top early plating a run in the bottom of the first. With runners at first and second with two outs, Rupard singled to score Kaytie Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) from second base.
The Huskies tacked on another run in the bottom of the third. Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) reached on an error by the second baseman and Grable singled to centerfield to start the inning. Following a strikeout, a passed ball allowed the two to move up a base. Rupard laid down a perfect bunt allowing Miller to beat the play to the plate to give NIU a 2-0 advantage.
That would be all the offense Sturm would need. The Huskie lefty allowed three hits the rest of the way.
After falling behind 3-0 through the first four innings and Ronnie Ladines throwing a perfect game, Emily Naegele's single in the bottom of the fifth sparked the Huskie offense as NIU would tie the game in that inning, scoring all three runs with two outs.
Following Naegele's hit, Rupard also reached safely with a single to shortstop. However, Rupard was doubled off first on a Sturm lineout. Jordyn Bowen (Libertyville, Ill./Grayslake) hit her first career home run allowing the Huskies to close to within a run. Nicole Gremillion's (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) RBI single three batters later capped the scoring for NIU in the inning.
After Kent State responded with runs in the top of the sixth and seventh to take a two-run lead, NIU rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Bowen got things going, doubling to center and advancing to third when the Kent State centerfielder bobbled the ball. She scored when the next batter, Kali Kossakowski (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward), hit a sacrifice fly to right field. A two-out bases loaded walk to Naegele plated the game-tying run for NIU and the game was sent into extra innings.
"Being able to tie the game up in the seventh is a big deal for us because we've been letting that inning slide," Sutcliffe said. "We came back in the seventh for once. The more you're in those situations, the more you think it's going to pay off in the stretch."
Neither team was able to break the tie for next four innings. A Ladines' two-out single up the middle scored a pair of Golden Flashes to give the visitors a 7-5 lead NIU could not overcome.
The Huskies return to action Saturday, when NIU plays host to Buffalo as the pair open a two-game series at Mary M. Bell Field. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker on NIUHuskies.com or they can watch it live on NIUTube. Monthly subscriptions are $6.95 with a yearly subscription at $49.95.