A walk-off home run proved to be the difference as the Northern Illinois University softball team dropped a 5-4 extra inning contest to Miami at MU Softball Stadium Sunday afternoon.
“We battled from behind twice and showed a ton of fight,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We just need to figure out how to close the door defensively for seven innings.”
A Kylie McChesney lead-off home run over the left field fence broke a 4-4 tie and gave Miami (12-29, 6-2) the victory and the series sweep over the Huskies (11-23, 1-5).
After the RedHawks jumped out to a 1-0 first inning lead, Northern Illinois came back with a three-run third. After a lead-off double by Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) and a two-out walk by Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest), Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) delivered the big blow when she hit her second home run of the season to right field to give NIU a 3-1 lead.
Jessica Sturm (Goddard, Kan./Goddard) shut down the RedHawks for the next two innings. However, Miami broke through with a three-run sixth. Kayla Ledbetter reached on a Huskie error to open the inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Shanyn McIntyre came through with a pinch-hit single to drive in two runs to tie the game, 3-3. Taylor Shuey gave Miami a 4-3 lead on an RBI single up the middle.
Northern Illinois tied the game at 4-4 when Kopp hit her team-leading fourth home run over the left centerfield fence. Sturm and the Huskies set down the RedHawks in order in the bottom of the seventh to force the game into extra innings.
NIU had a chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth. Sheppard singled to open the inning and Gremillion doubled to right center to put runners at second and third with no outs. Unfortunately, a line out, strike out and ground out stranded the runners and ended the Huskie threat.
Gremillion finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, while Kopp went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
The Huskies return to the diamond Wednesday when NIU plays host to Loyola in a doubleheader. First pitch for Game One is set for 2 p.m. Central Time.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.