NIU (18-21, 6-6) took game one from Central Michigan (27-14, 6-4), 4-1, before falling 5-0 in the second contest.
The Huskies took an early 1-0 lead on a one-out home run to centerfield by pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) in the top of the fourth. NIU gave itself a four-run cushion with a three-spot in the top of the fifth by taking advantage of a pair of Chippewas’ errors.
Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third when Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) reached on an error by the CMU catcher while attempting to sacrifice. After a Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) walk loaded the bases, Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) singled to drive in Phelan and Gremillion and give the Huskies a 3-0 lead. Sturm grounded out to second base but drove in Grable from third to give NIU an insurance run.
After going 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run scored at the plate, Sturm did the rest of her damage from the pitcher’s circle. She allowed one run on two hits in the final two frames to improve to 12-10 on the season. Sturm held CMU to one run on five hits through seven innings of work.
“Jess does a good job of sprinkling the hits,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “She got hit hard for a couple doubles, but she was able to sprinkle those in and not have a bad inning. Our defense got her out of two huge innings. In both games the outfield was phenomenal.”
The timely hit eluded the Huskies in game two. NIU had two runners on base four of the seven innings, but were unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position.
“We left too many runners on in both games,” Sutcliffe said. “We had opportunities to score in almost every inning, but we just couldn’t push the runners through. It’s going to happen. The good thing is we got them on. Now we just have to figure out how to get them in.
NIU’s best scoring chance came in the top of the fourth. Trailing, 1-0, the Huskies runners at second and third with two outs after Jordyn Bowen sacrificed Sturm and pinch runner Kristyn Barrett (Monticello, Ill./Monticello) to second and third. However, NIU cam up empty in the inning when Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale) grounded out to the shortstop.
Central Michigan came back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth and another pair to in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead.
“Getting out of here with a split today and if we can take two from Eastern, it’s going to be a good weekend,” she said.
The Huskies return to the diamond today when NIU travels to Ypsilanti, Mich. to face Eastern Michigan (9-29, 0-10) in a weekend set. Game one is today with first pitch set for 1 p.m., while game two will start at noon. on Easter Sunday. There will be live stats for both games on emueagles.com.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.