The Northern Illinois University softball team swept its third doubleheader of the season when the Huskies took two from Toledo on a cold and rainy Friday at Mary M. Bell Field.
The Huskies (22-29, 12-8) opened the day in style with a walk-off victory in Game One before posting an 11-2 five inning win over the Rockets (15-33, 7-13) in the nightcap.
Trailing 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Northern Illinois rallied with four runs, capped off by Amanda Sheppard’s (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) two-run game-winning home run.
“The fight in this team is incredible,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We truly believe if we have an out left in the game, we can win it. We continue to prove that over and over again.”
With runners at first and second with two outs, Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) began the rally when she reached first base beating out the throw by the shortstop. Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale) and Erika Oswald (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) scored when the shortstop’s throw got away from the first baseman on Phelan’s hit to pull NIU to within a run. Sheppard completed the comeback when she belted Maria Gooding’s offering over the left centerfield fence.
Toledo opened the game with a three-run first inning and scored a run in the fourth and seventh. The Huskies battled back with a run in the first and another in the third. Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard), who came in to pitch in relief in the fourth inning, picked up the win allowing one run on three hits in four innings of work.
Game Two was all NIU. The Huskies pounded out 13 hits and took advantage of two Rocket errors to score 11 runs with the big blow coming in the bottom of the second. After Toledo took a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning, NIU scored nine runs.
The Huskies sent 14 batters to the plate in the second with Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) and Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) recording multiple hits in the inning and Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) and Oswald driving in two runs in the inning.
“I didn’t know if we were ever going to get out of that second inning,” she said. “That was fun. I haven’t been part of two many innings like that. To continue to see them put the pressure on and score that many runs early was huge for us.”
Sturm picked up her second win of the day and her 11th win of the season allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings.
“Our pitchers knew they were going to come swinging and swinging hard,” Sutcliffe said. “Toledo scores a lot of runs and we knew we were going to have to match that. It was nice to see our offense pick the pitchers up.”
Phelan and Sheppard led the way for the Huskies Friday.
Phelan was the catalyst, going 4-for-6 with three runs scored, including a 2-for-4 and two runs scored effort in Game One, from the lead-off spot. Sheppard drove in four runs on the day, going 4-for-5 with two runs scored. She was particularly effective in the first game, turning in a 3-for-3, three RBI, two runs scored performance.
The Huskies return to the diamond today when NIU takes on Bowling Green. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.