The Northern Illinois University softball team suffered an 11-9 loss to Northwestern at Sharon J. Drysdale Field Tuesday afternoon.
What started out as a pitcher’s duel, turned into a slugfest as the Huskies (13-26) and Wildcats (22-16) combined for 20 runs and 18 hits. The two teams combined for one run and two hits through three and a half innings.
“If you had told me on the bus before this game that if we scored nine runs, I would’ve told you we’d win this game,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe.
Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South) gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run over the left field fence in the top of the second. It was Kopp’s team-leading and career-high sixth home run of the season.
Northwestern’s bats heated up in the bottom of the fourth, taking a 4-1 lead. Marisa Bast doubled to lead off the bottom of the inning and Amy Letourneau gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead on a two-run homer over right centerfield. A single and a double put runners at second and third with no outs for Northwestern. After a fly out to left, Northwestern tacked on two more runs on a Huskie error and sacrifice fly to right field.
The Huskies rallied in the top of the fifth to retake the lead, 7-4, scoring six runs with two outs. Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) began the rally with a double to right centerfield to drive in a pair and pull to within a run. Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) then doubled to the left field corner to drive in Miller and tie the game, 4-4.
With Murielle Vansach (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech), who pinch-ran for Barnett, on third after advancing on a wild pitch, NIU pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) helped her own cause with a single up the middle to drive in Vansach to give the Huskies a 5-4 . With Sturm and Kopp at second and third, Erika Oswald (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) singled to centerfield to clear the bases and give NIU a three-run lead.
The Wildcats got seven runs back in the bottom of the fifth. A sacrifice fly to centerfield and a three-run homer gave the Wildcats an 8-7 lead with one out.
With two outs and runners at second and third, Kristin Scharkey doubled to right off reliever Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) to clear the bases and give Northwestern a 10-7 lead. A double by Mari Majam scored Scharkey to give the Wildcats an 11-7.
NIU pulled within two in the top of the sixth when Miller drove in a pair on her second double of the game to make the score 11-9 Wildcats.
Miller led the way for the Huskie offense going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored. Oswald went 1-for-4 with two RBIs. Kopp and Barrett each went 1-for-2 with two runs scored.
“I’m glad she carried her performance against Eastern Michigan into today,” Sutcliffe said of Miller’s performance. “Hopefully she’ll continue to build her confidence. She put in the work. It’s nice to see it pay off. She’s going to keep fighting no matter what.
“Honestly, 1-9, we had a couple kids get opportunities today and they performed, they got on. It just shows how our depth has come through and our bench is being productive.”
The Huskies return to action today, playing host to UIC. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT. For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.