The Northern Illinois University softball team split its doubleheader in the Evansville Invitational Saturday.
The Huskies (6-5) rallied to knock of Northern Kentucky, 4-3, in the first game of the tournament before falling to the host Purple Aces of Evansville, 12-7, in the nightcap.
With the score tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second with one out, Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) singled to centerfield to drive home Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) from second for the winning run.
The Huskies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Gremillion, who reached on a error on an RBI single by Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest). Nortehrn Kentucky responded with a run in the top of the fifth and the sixth inning to take a 2-1 advantage.
“I think we came out ready to go,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We were able to put the ball in play and score a run in that first inning pretty easily. I think we kind of cruised through, we didn’t stay patient at the plate, swinging at bad pitches.
“In the sixth and seventh inning, we got back into our rhythm offensively. We were putting the ball in play the whole game, they were just going right to people.
NIU rallied in the bottom of the sixth with a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead. Naegele began the inning with a double to right field and Miller reached on a fielder’s choice. Naegele was thrown out at third when Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) reached on a fielder’s choice. Pitcher Rebecaa Rupard helped her own cause with an RBI single to right field to drive in Miller from second.
With two out and runners at second and third, freshman Kali Kossakowski (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward) drove in the tying run with a single to left.
Northern Kentucky tied the game, 3-3 with a lead-off pinch hit home run. However, that would be the only run Rupard and the Huskies would allow in the inning.
Rupard picked up her first collegiate victory allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, and striking out three. She also went 3-for-3 at the plate with an RBI to lead the way for the Huskie offense. Miller went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Gremillion set the table, scoring two runs from the lead-off spot.
“Rebecca had a great day all around, offensively and pitching,” Sutcliffe said. “She definitely excelled today.”
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning, NIU allowed a four Evansville runs in the bottom of the inning. It proved too much for the Huskies to overcome. Northern Illinois pulled to within two runs in the top of the fourth. Trailing, 7-2, NIU posted a three spot to cut the deficit to 7-5. Unfortunately that would be as close as the Huskies would get.
The Huskies return to action Saturday, March 8, when NIU travels to Wichita, Kan., to compete in the Shocker Softball Classic. NIU will open the tournament against San Diego State. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.