“Backing up last year, with what we did this year is only going to move our program forward,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “If we had gone two and out this year, it would have discredited what we did last year a little bit. Now we truly believe we can come here and do what we want to do.”
A six-run third inning by Buffalo (31-21) proved to be too much for the Huskies (26-31) to overcome as NIU suffered its second loss of the tournament and fourth straight to the Bulls this season.
The Bulls began their rally with a leadoff triple by Ryleigh Fitzgerald. After a walk put runners at the corners, Buffalo’s Alexis Curtiss tripled to left field to clear the bases and give the Bulls a 3-0 lead. Curtiss then scored on a Buffalo single to right field. With runners at second and third with two outs, pinch hitter Heather Ryder delivered a single up the middle to score two more runs and give Buffalo a 6-0 lead.
Rebecca Rupard (Normal, Ill./Normal West) came in to pitch for Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard), who had been brilliant in NIU’s previous three tournament games, and shut Buffalo down the next three innings. She allowed one run on three hits in four-and-a-third innings of work.
“Becca did a good job coming and putting up some zeros when we needed her to,” Sutcliffe said. “She’s done that all year for us.”
Bryanna Phelan (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) put the Huskies on the board in the bottom of the third with a one out RBI triple to right field to score Ashley Kopp (Burr Ridge, Ill./Hinsdale South). The next inning, Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) blasted a solo home run over the left centerfield fence in the bottom of the fourth to cut the Huskie deficit to four.
The Bulls added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. However, it didn’t come into play as the Huskies went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
For more information on NIU softball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.