The Northern Illinois University softball team completed its sweep of Western Michigan Sunday with a 6-1 victory over the Broncos at Mary M. Bell Field.
NIU (15-16, 3-3) scored its runs late, notching a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, another in the fifth and three more in the sixth. The Huskies pounded out 11 hits on the day and took advantage of scoring opportunities when they were presented with them.
“We had a lot of three-, four-pitch innings,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “I think we a little over-aggressive early on swinging at first pitches that were just good, not good enough. We did a good job late in the game.”
Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) led the way for the Huskie offense, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Emily Naegele was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) was effective in the batter’s box as well as the pitcher’s circle going 1-for-3 with 2 RBIs.
Sturm turned in another strong outing in the pitcher’s circle, allowing one run, a solo homer in the sixth, on four hits in seven innings of work. She worked out of a little jam and some control problems in the top of the second.
The Broncos (11-14, 2-4) loaded the bases with two outs on a walk, a single and another walk. However, the junior lefty got Mackenzie Ritsema to fly out to end the threat. Sturm was on cruise control the rest of the way. She retired the side in three innings and allowed only two hits in the final five innings of the game.
NIU opened the scoring back-to-back RBI doubles by Miller and Naegele. Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple to right and latter scored on a sacrifice bunt by Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead.
After Western Michigan got on the board with a solo shot in the top of the sixth, NIU responded with a three spot in the bottom of the frame. Following back-to-back singles by Miller and Naegele, Sturm cleared the bases with a triple to left center to give the Huskies a 5-1 advantage. Kaitlyn Barrett (Monitcello, Ill./Monticello), who was pinch running for Sturm scored when Phelan reached on an error by the pitcher to cap the game’s scoring.
“It wasn’t the long ball today that put us on the board, which is good,” Sutcliffe said.
The Huskies return to action Tuesday, when NIU travels to Valparaiso for a doubleheader. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.