Softball’s Stephanie Tofft sets school record

Stephanie Tofft
Stephanie Tofft

NIU freshman Stephanie Tofft extended her hitting streak Friday afternoon to a school record 16 games as the Huskie softball team split its doubleheader with Eastern Michigan at Mary M. Bell Field.

Tofft pushed that record to 18 games Saturday afternoon during a doubleheader sweep of Central Michigan.

Tofft, who tied the mark  Friday with a single to left field in the first game, kept the streak alive with a single to right in her final at bat of Game Two. The freshman from Lincoln, Calif. went 3-for-7 on the day with an RBI and run scored. Julie Stopka and Jill Justin previously held the NIU record with a 15-game hitting streak. Justin established the record in 1987 with Stopka last accomplishing the feat in 1997.

“Steph’s an amazingly calm hitter,” NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. “She never really gets rattled even if she has a bad at bat, a couple bad swings in an at bat. She never flounders and never loses her confidence.”

The Huskies (11-15, 1-1) won the first game, the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams, 8-6. NIU pounded out 12 hits and were aided by four Eastern Michigan (14-6, 1-1) errors to win its first MAC opener since 2009.

Northern Illinois jumped on top of the Eagles early with a three-run first inning to take a 3-0 lead. EMU answered with a run in the top of the second and another in the top of the third and the Huskies responded with a run in the bottom of the second and one in the bottom of the fifth to lead 5-2.

The Eagles mounted a rally in the top of the sixth with a two-run homer to right field to cut the deficit to 5-4. Northern Illinois added some insurance runs with a three spot in the bottom of the sixth to regain its three-run advantage.

Those runs would be key as EMU would add two runs to cut the lead to two but that would be as close as the Eagles would get.

Adriana Sanchez (San Fernando, Calif./Alemany) and Andrea Colosimo (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) led the way for NIU in the victory. Colosimo was 2-for-3 with three runs batted in, while Sanchez was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Alexandra Wulbecker continues to contribute offensively going 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Morgan Bittner
Morgan Bittner

Morgan Bittner (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) picked up the win, allowing two runs, one earned, on seven hits in four innings pitched. Freshman Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) picked up her first collegiate save.

Eastern Michigan won the nightcap, 10-1.

“We did a good job of defending [the ball] and hitting when it mattered in the first game. We didn’t get that timely hitting in the second game,” Chouinard said. “We didn’t beat Eastern last year, so 1-1 against them this year is better. We would have liked to have had two, but getting a win on the first day is really important.”

Chouinard chalked up Saturday’s pair of victories to the basics.

“It comes down to three things and you only have to do two of them,” she said. “Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. Today we had all three in both games.”

The Huskies (13-15, 3-1) posted a 2-1 victory in a pitcher’s duel in the first game and followed that up with an 8-0 shutout in five innings in Game Two, highlighted by the walk-off home run by freshman Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa).

Bittner pitched her best game of the six-game homestand, allowing one run, scattering seven hits, while striking out five in the series opener. After being staked to a 1-0 lead with an RBI single from Gremillion in the bottom of the third, Bitter struck out the side in the top of the fourth.

 An RBI double to left center by Carly Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) in the bottom of the fourth gave NIU a 2-0 lead. Central Michigan (14-12, 1-3) closed the gap to one with a run in the top of the fifth. The damage could have been far worse, as the Chippewas had the bases loaded with two outs. However, Bittner and the Huskie defense were able to get the force out at second and get out of the inning.

Gianna Cipollone
Gianna Cipollone

CMU had the tying run on third in the top of the sixth, but Bittner induced a pair of ground outs to end the threat.

Northern Illinois’ offense showed its power in Game Two, scoring all eight runs via the long ball. Sanchez opened the barrage with a three-run blast to center field to give NIU a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Norton had a three-run homer that bounced off the scoreboard in left field in the third inning to extend the lead to 6-0.

Miller capped the scoring and the sweep with two-run homer to center field to give the Huskies the 8-0 victory. Gremillion earned the victory, allowing five hits, while striking out two, in five innings of work.

 “The pitchers did a great job today,” Chouinard said. “Morgan did a good job setting the tone and getting ahead and getting out of jams early on. Nicole did a great job as well, posting her first collegiate shutout.”

Tofft posted a 1-for-3 showing. Norton went 3-for-5 on the day with four RBIs and a run scored.

NIU is back on the field Wednesday, April 6, when the Huskies travel to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Central Time. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.

For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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