The Northern Illinois University softball team dropped its midweek doubleheader with Valparaiso at the VU Softball Field Tuesday afternoon.
NIU (15-18) dropped an 8-6 decision to the Crusaders in game one before falling 4-3 in extra innings to Valparaiso in the nightcap.
A six-run fourth inning by Valparaiso (13-23) proved to be too much for the Huskies to overcome in the first game.
NIU jumped out to and early 4-0 lead with a run in the second and a three-spot in the third. Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) added to her team-leading home run total with a solo shot to left in the second. RBI doubles by Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) and Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) plated three more runs for NIU in the top of the third.
However, Valparaiso cut the deficit in half with two runs in the bottom of the third on a two-run blast by Ranieri over the centerfield fence. The Crusaders took the lead for good in the next inning with six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Samantha Stewart provided the big blow with a three-run homer to left centerfield, while Tarah McShane’s single to right field scored two more runs to give Valparaiso an 8-4 lead.
The Huskies came back with two runs in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by Rupard to score Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) and Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City). However, NIU was unable to score the rest of the game.
The two teams played long ball in extra innings after what had been a pitcher’s duel much of game two. Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) and Valpo’s Sara Strickland traded pitch for pitch for the first six innings of the contest.
“We did a good job coming back after losing the first game,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “Being able to stay with it and treat the game separate from the first. The key inning for us obviously was the seventh inning when we left the bases loaded it was probably the difference in the game.”
NIU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a RBI single by Jordyn Bowen (Libertyville, Ill./Grayslake). Valparaiso came back to tie the game on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
After the Crusaders took the lead in the bottom of the third on a McShane single up the middle, the Huskies came right back to tie it with a run in the top of the fourth on a Naegele double to left field to score Miller.
The Huskies had a chance to take the lead in regulation when they loaded the bases with one out. Unfortunately for NIU, Phelan flied out to short and Gremillion struck to end the inning. Sturm retired Valpo in order in the bottom of the inning to send the game into extras.
“Jess threw a pretty good game,” Sutcliffe said. “She made some big pitches when it counted to get us off the field. That bottom of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 after we just left the bases loaded was a big inning for her as well.”
In the top of the eighth, Kayti Grable’s (Santee, Calif./Santana) solo shot over the left field fence put the Huskies up, 3-2, headed into the bottom of the inning.
However, in the bottom of the inning, with one on and one out, Janelle Bouchard homered to centerfield to give the Crusaders the walk-off victory.
The Huskies return to action Friday, when NIU plays host to Ball State for a doubleheader at Mary M. Bell Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT with the second game to follow.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.