The Northern Illinois University softball team dropped a 7-3 contest to Illinois State at Marian Kneer Stadium Wednesday.
“We weren’t able to get the clutch hit or clutch defensive play when we needed it,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “They had a couple hits that just fell in that ended up being the difference in the game.”
In a rematch of the season opener, Northern Illinois (11-19) scored the first run of the game on a two-out RBI single by Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) in the top of the first inning.
However, the Redbirds (15-14) came back with a pair of runs in the first and three more in the second to open a 5-1 lead. Sturm pulled the Huskies within two when she belted a two-run home run over the left field fence to make the score 5-3 in the top of the third.
Unfortunately, that would be the last run for the Huskies. Illinois State would tack on two more runs in the sixth inning to make the score 7-3.
Sophomore Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest), who picked up the victory in the team’s first meeting Feb. 8, 2013 in Waco, Texas, wasn’t as fortunate Wednesday. Norton took the loss allowing five runs on six hits in two innings of work.
Northern Illinois pounded out 11 hits with Sturm leading the way for the Huskie offense. The lefty designated player went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored. Sturm came in to pitch the final four innings, allowing two runs on five hits and struck out four.
“Jess played really well offensively,” Sutcliffe said. “She’s been putting the ball in play so we moved her up in the line up today to see what that looked like. Obviously she got the job done when we needed her to.
“Defensively, she came in and shut them down for a while. She pitched a good game. She definitely was the bright spot of the day.”
The Huskies return to the field Friday when NIU faces travels to Muncie, Ind., for a doubleheader with the Cardinals. First pitch is set for at 1 p.m. Central Time.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.