A late rally in the final two innings was not enough for the NIU softball team as it dropped a 6-5 decision to host Cal Poly in the final game of the Mustang Classic Sunday at Bob Jenssen Field.
“Obviously, showing the resiliency to come back in the sixth and seventh inning and give us a chance to win showed a lot of fight,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “That’s kind of been a theme all weekend.
“We’ve proven we’re not going to give up and we’re going to continue to fight til the last out. Unfortunately, we’re not sharp enough on defense early on to give us enough of a chance to pull games out right now.”
Trailing 5-0 heading into the top of the sixth, the Huskies (6-12) scored two runs on two hits and capitalized on a Mustang (8-16-1) error to pull within three.
Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) started the inning by reaching on an error and advanced to second on an Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) single up the middle. With runners on second and third with one out, Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncali) singled up the middle to score Phelan and Kristyn Barrett (Monticello, Ill./Monticello), who pinch ran for Sheppard.
However, Cal Poly came back with an insurance run in the bottom of the frame to take a 6-2 lead into the final inning. Northern Illinois battled in the top of the seventh inning.
Pinch hitter Jessica Sturm (Goddard, Kan./Goddard) led off the inning with a single. Phelan kept the inning alive with a two-out single and Jillian Mattor (Redondo Beach, Calif./Redondo Beach), who re-entered the game for Sturm, advance to third on the throw. Sheppard cleared the bases with her first homer of the year with a blast to right field and clearing the bases and pulling NIU to within a run of tying the game.
Unfortunately for NIU, Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) grounded out to first base to end the rally and the game for NIU.
Cal Poly’s big inning came in the bottom of the second when the Mustangs scored four runs. Cal Poly scored six runs on 10 hits and three Huskie errors.
The top of the order did much of the damage for NIU as Phelan led the way going 3-for-4 with two runs scored from the leadoff spot. Sheppard went 2-for-3 on the afternoon with three RBIs and a run scored from the two hole, while Barnett was 1-for-3 with two RBIs from the clean-up spot.
Northern Illinois returns to the diamond Tuesday when the Huskies travel to Northridge, Calif. for a doubleheader with Cal State Northridge. First pitch for Game One is set for 3 p.m. with the second game to follow.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.