April 27, 2013
NIU 2-OU 0
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team used the long ball to knock off Ohio, 2-0, in Mid-American Conference play at Mary M. Bell Field Saturday.
Solo home runs by Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) and Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncali) in the bottom of the fourth proved to be too much for the Bobcats (24-24, 7-10) to overcome and give Northern Illinois (19-28, 9-8) the win the series opener.
Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) turned in another dominant performance from the circle, recording her second shutout in as many days. She scattered five hits and struck out five in seven innings of scoreless softball.
Norton pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the fourth. With one out, the bags full, and no score, Norton got back-to-back infield fly outs to end the threat and give NIU the momentum heading into the bottom of the inning.
Sheppard broke the tie when she led off the Huskies' fourth with a solo blast to left-centerfield. Two batters latter and one out, Barnett followed her fellow senior with a solo shot over the right-centerfield fence.
Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) kept the shutout in tact and ended the game in style when she threw out Amanda Dalton at the plate. After bobbling a Tessa Bailey single to left, Gremillion stayed with the play hit the cutoff man Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) who fired to catcher Erika Oswald (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) to make the tag.
"Nicole's starting to make the throw before she has the ball right now," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "We've preached all year long, stay with the play, keep playing. We've shown we've been able to do that."
Barnett went 1-for-2 on the day with an RBI and a run scored, while Sheppard went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored. In addition to her prowess at the plate, Sheppard has played exception defense during this homestand. She made several outstanding plays and robbed several Bobcats of easy hits.
"Shepp's been solid for us all year," Sutcliffe said of Sheppard's performance. "It's nice to see her having success on both sides of the ball. She's been considered a defensive specialist, but when I came here, I told her she could be special on both sides of the ball. She's proven that."
NIU returns to the diamond Sunday when the Huskies conclude their series with Ohio. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.
This weekend is Alumni Weekend at Northern Illinois. NIU Athletics would like to welcome all former Huskie softball players, coaches and their families to Alumni Weekend April 26-28. There will be a pregame tailgate Sunday before the Huskies take on the Bobcats. For more information or to RSVP, contact assistant director of development Kyle Skarb at 815-753-9198.