The Northern Illinois University softball team continued its run at Mid-American Conference title when it posted a 3-1 victory over top-seeded Ball State in the Game 7 of the 2013 MAC Softball Tournament at Firestone Stadium Thursday.
The Huskies had some clutch hits and capitalized on the Ball State defense to win and advance.
“It’s been our goal, make it to the next day,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We’ve made it to Friday and really Saturday, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome. That’s what we’ve been talking about, making it to the next day.”
With the score tied, 1-1 in the top of the seventh, Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) began the inning with a leadoff double to shallow left field.
After a pop out and line out, Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) was intentionally walked to bring Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) to the plate. Miller, who flied out with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, singled to drive in Phelan from second. The throw into the infield went into the Cardinal dugout to score Barnett and Miller ended up at third.
“It’s funny, when the intentionally walked JB, I said to myself, I’m in a win-win situation,” Sutcliffe said. “I was pretty good with both of them being up in that situation because both of them have been clutch for us. It didn’t matter who was going to do it.”
Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) got the scoring started for NIU when she reached on an error by the Cardinal shortstop in the top of the first. She then moved into scoring position on a passed ball. An error by the second baseman allowed Barnett to reach and score runner Kristyn Barrett (Monticello, Ill./Monticello) giving NIU a 1-0 lead.
Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard and the bases for three innings allowing one walk and one hit batter through three innings. However, Jennifer Gilbert tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff homer over the left field fence to break up Norton’s no-hitter.
Norton turned in another outstanding performance from the circle, allowing one run on six hits, three walks and a hit batter.
“Emily did an awesome job,” Sutcliffe said. “She pitched well against them in the regular season, so we went her again. Minus the one mistake, she was really able to get them to pop up a bunch. I wasn’t really expecting that, but it worked out.”
The Huskies will face No. 3 seed Central Michigan today in Game 11 of the 2013 MAC Softball Tournament in Akron, Ohio. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT and fans can follow all the action live at the 2013 MAC Softball Tournament Central.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.