The Northern Illinois University softball team got back on the winning track Wednesday by sweeping its doubleheader with North Dakota at Mary M. Bell Field.
The Huskies (13-16, 1-3) posted an 8-5 victory in the first game, while scoring a 10-2 win in five innings in game two. NIU got back on track pounding out 26 hits on the after, 13 in each game. Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) and Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) led the way for the Huskies with Miller going 4-for-6 with two RBIs and three runs scored, while Naegele 5-for-6 with four RBIs and three runs scored.
“We came out attacking,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “That was a goal of ours, to get our offense back going. We just played a lot more relaxed. We’re okay playing at home now.”
NIU’s pitching staff was equally impressive from the circle as both Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) and Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) picked up complete game victories. Both pitchers overcame rough beginnings to their outings.
“Jess and Becca settled in,” Sutcliffe said of the Huskie pitching staff. “Becca had a really rough three innings or so and was able to settle in from there. Jess had the rough first and was able to make a difference and keep people off balance and expand the zone.
“When you get teams that are swinging at a lot of stuff, you have to learn how to expand the zone and get them to chance pitches.”
North Dakota (3-20) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in the second and third innings. NIU pulled to within a run with three runs in the bottom of the third. After back-to-back one-out walks, Naegele hit a bases clearing triple to drive in the two runners and cut the deficit in half. An RBI single by Sturm plated Naegele and pulled NIU to within a run.
After UND scored a run in the top of the fourth, the Huskies took the lead with another three-run inning in the bottom of the fifth. Sturm knocked in a pair on a single, and later scored on a sacrifice fly to give NIU a 6-5 lead.
NIU added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer by Rupard that bounced off the scoreboard in left and a RBI single by Naegele.
The Huskies fell behind 2-0 in the first inning of game two when North Dakota scored a pair of runs in the first inning. However, NIU scored in each of the next five innings and Sturm settled down.
NIU tied the game with a run in the first and another in the second before taking the lead with two runs in the third. The Huskies broke the game wide open in the bottom of the fourth, plating five runs in the inning.
Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) began the rally with a two-run triple to right centerfield. RBI singles by Rupard, Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) and Miller accounted for the other three runs.
The Huskies return to the diamond Saturday, April 5, when NIU plays host to Western Michigan at Mary M. Bell Field.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.