DEKALB – The Northern Illinois University softball team rallied to defeat Western Michigan, 12-5, in the home and Mid-American Conference opener at Mary M. Bell Field Friday.
After falling behind, 5-0, after three and a half innings, Northern Illinois (11-17, 1-0) scored multiple runs in the next three frames, with the big blow coming off the bat of Ashley Kopp in the bottom of the sixth, to post its first MAC win of the season. Leading 8-3 with the bases loaded and two outs, Kopp belted a grand slam, the first of her career,[Marker] over the left field fence to give NIU a 12-5 lead heading into the final inning.
“We definitely had to take a couple innings to make some adjustments to that pitcher,” said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “Her drop ball was getting us early on. We were chasing her pitches and then we were able to make an adjustment and start swinging at our pitches and make her move the ball up in the zone. We got a lot of free bases with walks.”
Trailing 5-0 heading into the fourth, the Huskies took advantage of Bronco errors and some wildness by pitcher Becca Shemberger scoring three runs without the benefit of a hit. NIU took the lead in the bottom of the fifth with another three spot.
Amanda Sheppard led off the fifth inning with a triple to right and scored on a fielder’s choice by Nicole Gremillion. Erika Oswald doubled to center field to drive in a pair and give NIU a 6-5 lead.
Kopp finished the day 1-for-3 with four RBIs and a run scored. Oswald finished the day 1-for-2 with four RBIs and a run scored. Sheppard set the table for the Huskies from the three hole, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Western Michigan (9-17, 0-1) scored first posting a four spot in the top of the third and tacked on another run in the top of the fourth. However, Emily Norton shut the Broncos down from the middle of the fourth on. Norton was stellar in relief allowing one run on three hits while striking out six in four and a third innings of work. She improved to 4-11 on the season.
“She did a great job coming in,” Sutcliffe said of Norton’s performance. “Jess [Sturm] didn’t get hit hard. She just got hit. For Emily to come in, shut them down and give us a chance, was huge. I think scoring the three runs showed us we had a chance.”
The Huskies return to the field tomorrow when NIU faces Western Michigan at 2 p.m. Fans can follow all the action live, via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.