The Northern Illinois University softball team split its Friday doubleheader with Akron at Mary M. Bell Field.
Northern Illinois (18-28, 8-8) took Game One, 3-0, before falling 7-5 in eight innings to the Zips (19-24, 5-11) in the second game.
“We’re doing a better job of putting up runs on the board earlier in the game and not have to fight out of a whole,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “Unfortunately we had to do that in the second game a little bit.”
Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) was masterful in the first game of the day, shutting out Akron. She allowed one hit while striking out seven. Norton struck out the side in the third, one of three one-two-three innings for the sophomore pitcher.
With the game scoreless through three-and-a-half innings, the Huskies broke through with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) opened the inning with a leadoff triple. Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) drove in her first run of the game with an RBI single to left field. A sacrifice bunt by Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) scored Delani Vest (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland), who was pinch running for Barnett, from third to give NIU a 2-0 lead.
Barnett capped the scoring for NIU in the bottom of the fifth when she singled to right field to drive in Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City). Barnett led the way for NIU going 3-for-3 with two RBIs, while Gremillion was right behind her with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with a run scored.
Trailing 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh of Game Two, the Huskies rallied to tie the game. With the bases loaded and one out, Miller doubled to right centerfield to drive in a pair and pull NIU within a run. Barnett tied the game when she drove in her first run of the game and third of the day on a groundout to third.
However, a two-run homer by Rachael Ratcliffe in the top of the eighth gave the Zips the lead and momentum heading to the bottom of the inning. Akron pitcher Erin Sieler kept NIU off the board in the bottom of the frame to pick up the win.
NIU returns to the diamond Saturday when the Huskies welcome Ohio to DeKalb this weekend. Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will be 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. respectively.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.