May 2, 2014
NIU 0-Akron 2
NIU 9-Akron 4
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team split its doubleheader with Mid-American Conference East foe Akron at Lee R. Jackson Field Friday.
The Huskies (22-28, 9-11) suffered a 2-0 setback to open the day against Akron, but responded with a 9-4 victory over the Zips (25-14, 10-6) in the second contest.
Akron pitcher Erin Seiler kept the NIU offense in line in the first game of the doubleheader limiting the Huskies to five hits, while striking out eight. NIU's best scoring chance came in the top of the fifth.
"She just kept throwing nothing but outside and we weren't adjusting to it," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "The zone was stretched out there and we didn't make an adjustment early enough."
After Akron took a 1-0 on a lead off home run by Jessica Schneider in the bottom of the fourth, Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) led off the top of the fifth with a single to left center. Jordyn Bowen (Libertyville, Ill./Grayslake) singled to the pitcher to put runners at first and second with no outs. A sacrifice bunt by Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) advanced the runners a base. However, they were stranded as back-to-back groundouts ended the inning for the Huskies without a run scored.
The Zips added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a RBI single by Shawna Mailloux. However, the Huskies were unable to score in the top of the seventh to extend the game.
Sturm, who led the way for NIU's offense going 2-for-3, suffered the loss. She allowed two runs, one earned, on nine hits and two base on balls.
The Huskie offense unloaded in game two and they didn't waste time getting on the board. NIU took a 1-0 lead when Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) reached on an error and advanced all the way to third on a bunt single by Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins). Phelan then scored on a Kayti Grable (Santana, Calif./Santee) groundout.
Akron responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and another in the fourth to open up a 3-1 lead.
NIU retook the lead with a six-run fifth inning with the big blow coming off the bat of Sturm. With the bases loaded and no outs, Grable delivered her second and third RBIs of the game when she singled to drive in Kopp and Phelan to tie the game, 3-3. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded this time with two outs, Sturm hit her first career grand slam, a blast over the center field fence to give the Huskies a 7-3 lead.
"I think we were having some good at bats," Sutcliffe said. "They were hitting that same pitcher better in the second game. Jess just got a pitch up in the zone that she was able to drive."
Gremillion, who scored on the Sturm grand slam, tied NIU's Jill Justin for runs scored in a career with 148 with two more games yet to play.
Akron came back with a run in the bottom of the sixth to close to within three runs. However, the Huskies came back with two more runs in their final at bat to post a 9-4 win.
Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) picked up the win going six innings, allowing four runs, three earned on seven hits and two walks. Sturm came in to pitch the seventh and help bring home the win.
The Huskies return to the diamond Saturday, when NIU travels to Ohio for a two-game series with the Zips. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CT. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker on NIUHuskies.com.