The Northern Illinois University softball team split its doubleheader with Cal State Northridge at Matador diamond Tuesday afternoon.
The Huskies (7-13) dropped a 3-2 decision to Cal State Northridge (11-17) in the first game and posted a 2-1 victory over the Matadors to snap an eight-game losing streak.
Improved defense and a two-run fourth proved to be the difference for the Huskies in the nightcap.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the fourth, Northern Illinois scored two runs on four hits to take a one-run lead. Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) began the rally with a lead-off double and scored two batters later on an RBI single to left center by Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa). With two runners on first and second with one out Delani Vest (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) singled to center to drive in Miller.
Jessica Sturm (Goddard, Kan./Goddard) led the way for the Huskies at the plate and in the field. Sturm improved to 3-5 on the season allowing one run on six hits while striking out five. She also helped herself at the plate going 2-for-3.
“Jess did great offensively and defensively,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “She pitched a really good game and came through with some big hits in the first game and in the second game. That was fun to see.”
After committing 16 errors in five games at the Mustang Classic, NIU suffered only one defensive miscue in its win over Northridge. Sutcliffe credits the team’s first full practice of the season with the team’s improved defensive play.
“Basically, it came down to defense,” Sutcliffe said. “In the first game we made some blunders in the last inning and it came back to bite us. In the second game we made some huge defensive plays that kept us in the game and ended up helping us win it.
“We had practice yesterday so we definitely focused on playing defense. It was our first practice on a field together as a team. Erika [Oswald] came up with some big plays defensively in the second game.”
A two-run seventh inning by Cal State Northridge was the difference in the first game. Northern Illinois took a 1-0 lead in the third when Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) scored from third on a wild pitch.
After the Matadors tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fifth, NIU retook the lead with a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Sturm to score Miller and give the Huskies a 2-1 advantage.
The Huskies return to action today when NIU takes on North Dakota State and Loyola Marymount in a doubleheader. First pitch for Game One is set for noon and Game Two against the host Lions starts at 2 p.m. Both times are Central.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.