Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) provided the catalyst for the Huskies’ (23-29, 10-12) from the leadoff spot. The junior right fielder went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) did her job in the clean up spot, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored, while Kayti Grable (Santana, Calif./Santee) was a perfect 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“Bryanna, giving us the spark plug at the top of the line up was the difference for us,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “When you can get the game going with a triple, you give everyone else a little more confidence.”
Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) was solid in the pitcher’s circle, allowing one run on three hits and three walks in six-and-two thirds innings.
“Becca was awesome,” Sutcliffe said. “They never seemed to have her figured out. She did a nice job of keeping them off balance.”
After falling behind, 1-0, after a Bobcat (28-24, 12-8) run in the second inning, NIU took control of the game in the top of the third with three runs.
A one-out single by Phelan and a bunt single by Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) set the table for Grable. The freshman first baseman singled through the left side to drive in Phelan and tie the game. Naegele doubled to right center to score Gremillion and Shelby Miller’s (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) groundout drove in Grable to cap the scoring in the inning.
The Huskies tacked on another run in the top of the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Phelan to score Rupard and give NIU a 4-1 lead. NIU added two more runs in the top of the seventh on a two-out two-run home run by Naegele over the left field fence to score Grable and give NIU a 6-1 lead.
After Rupard retired the first two batters, a single and hit batter gave the Bobcats a scoring threat. However, Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) came in to record the final out and seal the win.
The Huskies earned the No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 seed Buffalo in their opening game of the tournament Wednesday, May 7. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.