WACO, Texas – Christina Sutcliffe’s tenure as head coach of the Northern Illinois University softball team couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as the Huskies opened the 2013 season by sweeping its doubleheader at the 12th annual Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas Friday afternoon.
The Huskies (2-0) were solid in every phase of the game in both contests, opening the day with a 3-1 victory over in-state rival Illinois State and scoring a 4-0 shutout over Sam Houston State in the second game. Northern Illinois pounded out 15 hits, allowed one run, and committed only one error on the day.
“We definitely came through when it mattered,” Sutcliffe said of the performance by the Huskie offense. “We didn’t try to do too much. We stayed within ourselves and came through when it counted.”
The 2-0 start is the best for the Huskies since 2008 when NIU opened the season 4-0.
Emily Norton picked up the win in her Huskie debut, allowing one run while scattering eight hits in seven innings of work against the Redbirds.
“She did a great job keeping them off balance,” she said. “She did a great job fielding as well. A couple times we got in some trouble with runners on third and she made the pitch when it needed to be made.”
Bryanna Phelan led the way for the Huskies at the plate going 2-for-3 driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth inning.
With the scored tied 1-1 and runners at first and second with two outs, Phelan singled to the short. A little bobble by the Redbird shortstop, allowed Amanda Sheppard to score and give NIU a 2-1 lead. Ashley Kopp added an insurance run with a single.
Pitcher Jessica Sturm and the Huskie defense shut out the Bearkats in Game 2. Jennifer Barnett, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, jump started the Huskie offense, belting the first home run of the season over the right field fence to give NIU a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies tacked on three more runs in the top of the sixth. Nicole Gremillion singled to left to drive in pinch runner Jillian Mattor. Gremillion then scored on a double by Shelby Miller. Miller scored the third and final run of the inning when she advanced to third on a wild pitch, then took home on an errant throw by the catcher.
“Jessica threw lights out,” Sutcliffe said. “They’re [Sam Houston State] a great hitting team and she kept pitching the ball in and out and kept them off balance moving the ball around.”
The Huskies return to the diamond tomorrow when Northern Illinois takes on host Baylor University. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.