May 2, 2010
Northern Illinois 4, Miami (Ohio) 2 (Final Stats)
DEKALB, Ill. - Sophomore hurler Morgan Bittner pitched five shut-out innings in relief, fanning eight batters along the way, leading the Northern Illinois softball team to a come-from-behind 4-2 win over defending Mid-American Conference champion Miami (Ohio) on Senior Day at Mary M. Bell Field Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Huskies (22-30, 10-8 MAC) swept the RedHawks, and moved into a fifth-place tie with Miami in the MAC Tournament race. NIU defeated the RedHawks in 10 innings on Saturday, 3-2, and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. Bittner's shut-down performance earned her the win, her 17th of the season.
"Morgan came in, and got the job done today," said NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard. "We gave up some early runs, but she got into a rhythm and began to shut their lineup down. The offense then did a great job of supporting her.
"We still have more games to win, and a lot of softball to play. The (MAC) tournament is not guaranteed for us yet, and we are taking things one game at a time. But our players seem to be coming together at the right time, and this was a great series win for team and our seniors."
Bittner entered the game in the top of the third inning, and inherited a 2-0 deficit, after the RedHawks plated one run in each of the first and second frames. She allowed just three hits the rest of the way, and recorded at least one strikeout in each of the remaining five innings.
Miami jumped out to the 1-0 lead in the first stanza after seeing the first two hitters reach base. Leadoff hitter Daniela Torres scored the run after an NIU error in left field, but starting pitcher Monica Segura prevented further damage by forcing Miami's Alicia Hogl to ground out to the left side of the infield.
The RedHawks scored one more run in the top of the second. Shannon Tillett was hit by a pitch, then stole second, and was sacrificed to third base by Jenna McGivney. An illegal pitch was then called on Segura, and all runners advanced, including Tillett from third, to push Miami's lead to 2-0. Segura then forced the RedHawks' Meghan Mawn to ground out to first base, ending the threat.
Northern Illinois cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third inning, after Carly Norton hit a solo home run to left field. Amanda Sheppard followed with a deep double, and after Dani Parrish singled up the middle two batters later, Sheppard aggressively rounded third, in an attempt to tie the game. But Miami centerfielder Kat Russette threw her out at home, preserving the RedHawks' 2-1 lead.
Bittner made quick work of Miami in the next inning, retiring the 7, 8 and 9 batters in order. The Huskies then tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Zoe Sinner doubled to deep right center to lead-off inning, followed by an RBI single by Jennifer Barnett.
Adriana Sanchez was robbed of extra bases one batter later, after belting a line drive down the third base line; but Torres quickly reacted with a diving catch for the first out. Pinch-runner Ashley Cann was thrown out to end the frame while attempting to steal second.
The Huskies plated the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth, capitalizing off another extra base hit by Norton, who led off the inning with a double. Miami starting pitcher Jessica Simpson, the 2009 MAC Tournament MVP, was then replaced by reliever Meredith Linch. Sheppard sacrificed Norton to third, followed by a walk by Krista Matsui. Andrea Colosimo then singled down the left field line, scoring Norton for the second time in the game.
The Huskies added an insurance run in the sixth frame, capitalizing on three-consecutive hits. Sanchez doubled to left center with one out, followed by an RBI single by senior and designated player Michelle Williams.
Huskie seniors Kayla Kramer, Allison Parker, Kate Welsh and Williams were all honored in a pre-game ceremony, and each started the game.
NIU will wrap up the MAC's regular season next weekend, when the Huskies travel to Michigan to face divisional foes Central Michigan (May 7) and Eastern Michigan (May 8-9).