KENT, Ohio – The Northern Illinois University softball team swept Kent State in Mid-American Conference softball at Diamond at Dix Friday afternoon.
The Huskies (15-26, 5-7) took Game One, 5-1, and posted a 4-3 win over Kent State (19-16-1, 9-5) in the nightcap. Northern Illinois jumped on top early in both games, quite the contrast from the late rallies NIU was posting the least few games.
“Today’s game was different from last weekend for sure,” said NIU head coach Christine Sutcliffe. “We scored early and were able to play some good defense and shut them down rather than play catch up.”
It was the fourth-straight win for NIU over the Golden Flashes as the Huskies took the season series last year. It is also the first doubleheader sweep of a conference opponent since 2011 when NIU took a pair from Akron.
Nicole Gremillion led the way for the Huskie offense in the first game. The junior left fielder finished the day 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored from the three hole. Jessica Sturm provided the pop in the bottom of the order going 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Pitcher Emily Norton went the distance in the circle, allowing one run, unearned, on two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Northern Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second to timely hitting and took advantage of the Kent State defense. An RBI single by Jennifer Barnett and a passed ball scored Kristyn Barrett, who originally reached on an error by the third baseman, from third.
With the score 2-1, following a Golden Flashes’ run in the bottom of the second, NIU added two more runs. With runners at second and third with two outs, Sturm singled up the middle to clear the bases.
The Huskies tacked on another run in the top of the seventh when Gremillion led off the inning with her second home run of the season.
NIU’s offensive outburst continued in Game Two. Ashley Kopp gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead when she belted her team-leading seventh home run. Erika Oswald added a two-out RBI single to give Northern Illinois a 3-0 lead.
The Huskies added an insurance run in the top of the third on an RBI double by Barnett. That run would prove crucial as the Golden Flashes scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Norton turned in another strong performance going six and a third innings allowing three runs, one earned, on three hits and three base on balls while striking out six. Sturm picked up the save, recording the final two outs of the game.
“We made the decision going into the second game that she shut them down in the first game and we thought we’d continue to ride her,” Sutcliffe said of Norton’s performance in the second game. “I didn’t think she was going to make it into the seventh. I was hoping to get another four innings out of her and bring Jess in, but she continued to cruise so we just rode her til we needed a fresh arm to close it out.”
Barnett and Oswald each went 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead the way for the NIU offense, while Kopp went 1-for-2 with two RBIs.
The Huskies return to the diamond Saturday when NIU travels to Buffalo, N.Y. to take on the Bulls. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT.