Created:Saturday, March 31, 2012 11:23 p.m.CDT

Softball wins first MAC game

By NIU Media Relations

The Northern Illinois softball team used an offensive explosion to win its first Mid-American Conference game of the season, 12-5, over Ball State at Mary M. Bell Field on Saturday.

“After yesterday’s game, we were not very happy, as a team and as a coaching staff,” NIU coach Lindsay Chouinard said. “We really challenged them to have a response today to the way they played yesterday. They hit with runners in scoring position all day today. They came up with big plays when we needed big plays.”

The victory for the Huskies (13-18, 1-2) was the first in eight tries and their largest run total of the season since scoring 12 against Canisius Mar. 13, 2012. Leading the way for NIU was Jennifer Barnett. The junior designated player went 3-for-4 with five runs batted in from the five hole.

“The middle of the line up did a good job,” Chouinard said. “Up and down we did a good job of being patient and crushing those pitches that were at a good height.”

The Northern Illinois offense approached each at bat with a purpose, being patient in some at bats and aggressive in others. NIU pounded out 10 hits and coaxed five walks and getting the timely hit, something that has eluded them this week, when it needed it.

After Ball State (19-10, 0-1) opened the scoring with a run in the first, the Huskies responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame with RBI singles from Stephanie Tofft and Barnett. Northern Illinois opened the game wide open in the bottom of the second with a four spot.

Erika Oswald stole home on a double steal and Shelby Miller’s sacrifice fly extended the lead to 4-1. Barnett picked up two more RBIs when she singled to center giving NIU a 6-1 advantage.

The Cardinals answered with three runs in the top of the third, however, the Huskies responded with a run in the bottom of the frame. With the score 7-5 NIU after the top of the fifth, Northern Illinois scored five more runs over the next two innings with a pair of runs in the fifth and three runs in the sixth. Barnett knocked in two more runs in the sixth on a double to left center. Amanda Sheppard scored the final run of the game with a homer over the left field fence.

Tofft went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored, while Sheppard was 1-for-1 with two RBIs and a run scored.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?