RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Northern Illinois University softball team went into extra innings in both games of the Highlander Classic splitting the pair Friday.
The Huskies (8-17) bounced back from a tough 3-2 loss in eight innings to the University of Notre Dame to defeat host UC Riverside, 5-1, in Game Two.
“This whole week has been about today and seeing it all come together in all three areas of the game,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “The team showed up ready to fight today and it was fun watching them play.”
Northern Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Irish with a pair of runs in the first inning. Amanda Sheppard opened the inning with a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Nicole Gremillion then doubled down the right field line to drive in Kaitlyn Barrett, who pinch ran for Sheppard. A Jennifer Barnett single in the middle drove in Gremillion for the second run of the inning.
Emily Norton kept Notre Dame off the board in the bottom of the inning. The Irish loaded the bases with two outs, but the sophomore pitcher snagged a Kathryn Lux pop up to end the threat.
Norton kept Notre Dame off the board for the five innings. However, the Irish broke through in the bottom of the sixth tying the game 2-2 on a Katey Haus single down the right field line. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Haus delivered again for the Irish, this time with a game-winning RBI single.
After falling behind 1-0 to UC Riverside in the first inning, pitcher Jessica Sturm kept the Huskies in the game, shutting down the Highlanders. Sturm kept UCR hitless the next six innings. Ashley Kopp tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning when she belted her first homer of the season over the left field fence. Neither team was able to scratch across a run in the final two innings forcing extras.
The NIU offense erupted in the top of the eighth scoring four runs on two hits and capitalizing on a UC Riverside error. With two on and one out Gremillion cleared the bases with an RBI single to left. With one on and two outs, Shelby Miller hit her team-leading third homer to give NIU a 5-1 lead. Sturm held UCR scoreless in the bottom of the inning to give NIU the win.
The Huskies return to the diamond Saturday when NIU resumes play in the Highlander Classic hosted by UC Riverside with a doubleheader. Northern Illinois will face Notre Dame and Iona at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively. Both times are Central.