NIU (17-20, 5-5) used an offensive barrage in game one to win the series opener, 6-1, before falling to the RedHawks (17-20, 5-5), 8-5, in extra innings.
The Huskies pounded out nine hits in the first contest delivering the knockout blow in the fifth inning. Trailing 1-0 after the top of the third, freshman Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) put NIU ahead with a monster blast over the left field fence.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) broke the game wide open with a bases clearing double to left center. An RBI single by Jordyn Bowen (Librtyville, Ill./Grayslake North) made the score 5-1 and Kristyn Barrett (Monticello, Ill./Monticello) took home on a passed ball to make the score, 6-1, and cap the scoring in the game.
“We did a good job at getting better throughout the game and getting more aggressive,” NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe said of the offense’s performance. “The first couple innings we were a little passive aggressive. In the third or fourth inning we were able to get some good swings early in the at bat.”
Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) was solid in the pitcher’s circle once again the Huskies. A day after pitching a complete game shutout, the junior lefty allowed one run on four hits, while striking out two.
“Jess is back in the swing of things,” Sutcliffe said. “She did a good job. She’s making a pitch when it counts and that’s the difference between the Jess now and the Jess several weeks ago. They’re getting on, but she’s figuring out how to not let them score.”
NIU had to play a bit of catch up in the second game. A run in the second and three in the fifth and the Huskies were in a 4-0 hole with three more at bats.
The NIU offense responded in the bottom of the fifth with a three spot to pull within a run. Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) led off the inning with a single and was quickly driven in on a Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) triple to left center. Rebecca Rupard’s (Normal, Ill./Normal West) double down the left field line scored Gremillion. Naegele’s two-out double scored Rupard and made the score, 4-3 Miami.
The Huskies took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth with RBI single’s by Gremillion and Rupard. Unfortunately for NIU, Miami scored a run in the top of the seventh to tie the game. NIU was unable to plate the winning run and the game went into extras.
“I told them they did such a phenomenal job of fighting back and giving themselves a chance to win that game,” Sutcliffe said. “Defensively, we could make the play to get off the field.”
In the eight, the RedHawks took the lead on a two-run double by Allie Larrabee. A two-out double by Jenna Modic gave Miami an insurance run and an 8-5 lead.
The Huskies return to action Friday, when NIU travels to Mt. Pleasant, Mich. for a doubleheader with Central Michigan. First pitch for game one is scheduled for non CT with the second game to follow.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.