The Northern Illinois University softball team’s offense was held in check Saturday as Buffalo took advantage of Huskie errors to take the series opener, 7-2, over NIU at Mary M. Bell Field.
“They’ve always played us really well and they’ve always been pretty aggressive at the plate,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We knew that game was going to come down to us making an adjustment on Speckman and we didn’t.”
Buffalo (22-16, 8-4) jumped on top of the Huskies early, scoring three runs in the first inning. NIU (20-26, 8-9) responded with a run in the first inning, scoring without the benefit of a hit.
Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) led off the inning with a walk and stole second and advanced to third on an error by the shortstop as the Bulls tried to throw her out. Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) walked to put runners at the corners with two outs. Gremillion stole home on the double steal.
Following the first, both pitchers settled in. NIU pitcher Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) kept the Bulls off the board for the next four innings, while Buffalo pitcher Tori Speckman kept the Huskies off the bases, throwing a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
The Bulls broke the game wide open in the top of the sixth. Buffalo tallied four runs in the frame on two hits and by taking advantage of three Huskie errors.
“It definitely put the game out of reach and it changed the way we play the game from an offensive standpoint,” Sutcliffe said. “At that point you just need runners. You can’t be very aggressive.
“I don’t really know what happened with our defense today. We just made some uncharacteristic plays on very average balls.”
Trailing 7-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Kayti Grable (Santana, Calif./Santee) broke up the no-hitter. After Gremillion reached by getting hit by a pitch, Grable hit a solid double to the gap in left centerfield to score Gremillion from first to make the score, 7-2. Unfortunately, that would be as close as the Huskies would get.
The Huskies return to the diamond Sunday, when NIU plays host to Buffalo on Senior Day at Mary M. Bell Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.