The Northern Illinois University softball team suffered an 11-10 setback to Ball State at Mary M. Bell Field Sunday.
In a game befitting April Fools’ Day, the two teams combined for 21 runs on 23 hits and five errors. Of the 21 runs scored, 14 were earned.
With the Huskies’ (13-19, 1-3) trailing 6-1 in the bottom of the third, Ball State (20-10, 1-1) committed four errors and NIU pounded out five hits as the Huskies scored seven runs in the frame to take an 8-6 lead.
After Dani Parrish (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) opened the third with a one out single, Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif./Lincoln) reached on an error by the Cardinal pitcher and the Huskies took advantage.
Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) drove in the first run on a single to right field and Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) cleared the bases with a single up the middle to make the score 6-4.
A fielder’s choice put Huskies at first and second with two outs. Pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) helped her own cause when she stole home on a double steal, pulling NIU to within one, 6-5. An RBI single by Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) and a RBI double by Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) gave NIU a 7-6 lead. Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins), who grounded out to begin the inning, reached on an error by the Cardinal pitcher to drive in Sheppard and give NIU an 8-6 lead.
However, that would be the only runs the Huskies would score until the bottom of the eighth inning. Ball State chipped away at the NIU lead, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game, 8-8. The Cardinals scored three runs in the top of the eighth on two hits and an error.
“The reality of this game is that it doesn’t come down to what happened at the end of the game,” NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said.
“The reality is, we went four innings after we scored seven, scoring none. When you really have a team down and you’re in a position to put a hurt on them and you go quiet. Ball State is a good team. Ball State is a great hitting team, if you let them hang around within one of two runs, all the way up until the end of the game, at some point it’s going to bite you.”
Ball State did much of its damage in the second inning with six runs off starter Megan Dortch (Reno, Nev./Bishop Manogue). Dortch lasted an inning and a third before Sturm came in to pitch in relief. Sturm went six-and-two-thirds innings, allowing five runs, three earned, on eight hits and four walks.
Parrish led the way for the Huskie offense, going 3-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored, while Barnett turned in another solid performance at the palte, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
NIU continues MAC play Friday when the Huskies travel to Eastern Michigan for a doubleheader. First pitch for Game One is set for noon Central Time.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.