The NIU softball team opened its 2012 campaign on a high note Friday, winning its first two games of the 2012 Lion Softball Classic hosted by Southeastern Louisiana.
The Huskies used a five-run fifth to rally from a one-run deficit to post an 8-4 victory over Southern in the season opener and overcame a four-run lead by Nicholls State to defeat the Colonels, 9-8, in the nightcap.
“The top of the line up did a really good job setting the tempo for us,” NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said. “The seniors, Carly and Dani, had a really good day from the plate. We just found a way to get it done.”
Trailing 4-3 in the top of the fifth, play was halted due to rain. When the showers had passed and play resumed at 5 p.m., the Huskies came out swinging putting up a five spot in the bottom of the fifth to take a commanding four-run advantage.
The inning began with a bunt single by Dani Parrish (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) and a walk by Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif./Lincoln), giving Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) a perfect RBI opportunity. Barnett delivered with a double to right center to drive in the runners and give the Huskies a 5-4 lead.
Three batters latter and with runners at second and third and one out, Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) doubled down the left field line to drive in two more runs for NIU. A two-out single by freshman Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) scored Sheppard, who stole third, to cap the scoring for the Huskies.
Freshman pitcher Megan Dortch (Reno, Nev./Bishop Manogue) closed down Southern (0-2) in the final two innings. She shut out the Jaguars allowing one hit and two base on balls in two-and-a-third innings.
Phelan led the way for the Huskies, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in her first collegiate softball game. Sheppard knocked in a game-high three RBIs, while Barnett was 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
Northern Illinois belted out 13 hits and scored nine runs and held off a late rally by the Colonels to open the season 2-0 as they won the second game of their doubleheader.
After falling behind 4-0 through the first two-and-a-half innings, the Huskies put up a three spot in the bottom of the third to pull within one. Back-to-back doubles by Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) and Parrish gave NIU its first run. Tofft’s first round tripper of the year made the score 4-3.
After holding the Colonels scoreless in the top of the fourth, NIU took a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the frame with another three-run inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Krystin Barrett (Monticello, Ill./Monticello) scored from third on a passed ball to tie the game.
RBIs by Parrish and Tofft gave the Huskies a two-run lead.
NIU added three more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Parrish and Tofft leading the way again. A two-out single by Parrish scored Gremillion from second and Tofft drove Parrish home with her second homer of the night, giving the Huskies a 9-4 lead.
“Steph and Dani did everything we needed them to do,” she said, “Dani getting on base and Steph hitting people in. They’re obviously going to be critical part for us this year.”
Those insurance runs would be key as the Colonels would not go down quietly in the top of the seventh. Nicholls State made a late charge, scoring four runs. With four runs in and two outs, Gremillion came into pitch, recording the final out and picking up the save.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.