The Northern Illinois University softball team split a pair of games against in-state rivals Western Illinois and Southern Illinois in the final two games of the Coach B Classic hosted by Southern Illinois.
NIU (5-7) opened the day with a 5-0 victory over Western Illinois and it was the top of the order doing the damage.
Huskie pitchers Megan Dortch and Jessica Strum combined to pitch a four-hit shutout, striking 12 Leathernecks (5-11). Dortch, who started the game, improved to 5-3 on the season allowing three hits, while striking out 10.
“The games that we were really successful in this weekend, we did a good job of pitching and defending the ball,” NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. “At the end of the day, that’s going to win us a championship, being able to perform from the mound and defend the ball. We did a good job of that in the first game.”
Leadoff hitter Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) continued swinging a hot bat on the weekend with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate with two runs scored, while Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif./Lincoln) was 3-for-4 with an un batted in and a run scored. Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) was 1-for-4 on the day with three RBIs and a run scored.
Northern Illinois opened the scoring in the top of the first on an RBI single by Tofft, scoring Gremillion from second. Miller gave NIU a 3-0 lead when she hit her second home run of the weekend, a two-run shot to left field in the top of third.
Miller collected her third RBI of the game and gave the Huskies a 4-0 advantage when she reached on a fielder’s choice in the top of the fourth, scoring Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) from third. A second NIU run in the inning, gave the Huskies a 5-0 lead.
The NIU bats stayed hot against the Salukis, however the Huskies were unable to overcome a five-run first by SIU and suffered a 15-7 loss in its final game of the tournament. The Huskies tallied 11 hits on the day with Gremillion, Tofft and Dani Parrish (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) recording multi-hit games for NIU.
Parrish led the way for the NIU offense going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Gremillion was 2-for-3 with three runs, while Tofft was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“The offense is getting a little bit more on track,” Chouinard said. “We’ve just simplified the offense, getting back to hit and runs, and getting hits when they matter most. The girls did a good job for the most part of adjusting.”
NIU returns to the diamond next weekend when the Huskies travel to Columbia, Mo. to compete in the DeMarini Invitational hosted by Missouri. Northern Illinois opens the tournament against Alcorn State at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.