The Northern Illinois softball team completed its series sweep over Ball State with a 6-4 victory Sunday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.
Trailing 4-3 heading into the top of the seventh, NIU (26-25, 13-7) took the lead on a three-run home run by freshman Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa). The first two Huskies reached when Carly Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) reached after getting hit by pitch, and Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) singled up the middle.
Two batters later, Miller came to the plate and deposited the Audra Sanders pitch over the left field fence to give Northern Illinois a two-run lead.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard. “Ball State did a great job coming back, running the bases hard. Shelby came up big for us in the last inning. Everyone contributed today. Everybody was a part of this big for us. We couldn’t be more excited going in the tournament.”
Morgan Bittner (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach) shut down the Cardinals (33-22, 12-8) in the seventh to record her 10th win of the season. Bittner went seven innings, allowing four runs, three earned. With the win, NIU moves into second place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.
“It’s great having Morgan back,” Chouinard said. “She gave us a gutsy performance today. Hopefully we can ride that going into the MAC Tournament.”
Northern Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two runs in the first inning. However, Ball State tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the second. An RBI double by Gianna Cipollone (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) in the top of the third allowed the Huskies to retake the lead, but it was short lived as the Cardinals responded with a run in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at 3-3.
The Cardinals took a 4-3 advantage with a run in the bottom of the sixth. It was their only lead of the game.
Miller went 1-for-1 on the day with three RBI, while Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif./Lincoln) led the Huskies with a 3-for-5 day with a run scored. Adriana Sanchez (San Fernando, Calif./Alemany), Sheppard and Cipollone each collected an RBI on the day as well.
The 2011 MAC Softball Tournament begins Wednesday, May 11, at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio. First pitch for Game One is set for 11 a.m.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.