Huskies fall to Broncos after late rally comes up short


Tim Dodge

NIU freshman utility player Danielle Stewart (22), at bat, watches the ball fly after swinging during the Huskie Softball game against Central Michigan University on April 1 at Mary M. Bell Field in DeKalb. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

By Zachary Bertram, Senior Sports Reporter

DeKALB – NIU softball’s (21-22, 10-10 MAC) comeback bid fell short, losing 7-6 to the Western Michigan University Broncos (15-22, 9-9 MAC) Tuesday. A complete game from junior pitcher Rissa Bajusz helped the Broncos win the first of the three-game set. 

Bajusz earned the win in the pitcher’s circle for Western Michigan while junior pitcher Emily Dato suffered the loss for NIU.

Despite out-hitting the Broncos 10-7, the Huskies were unable to come up with enough hits with runners on base. The Huskies left nine runners on base and had just three hits with runners in scoring position. 

“We just didn’t do a good enough job with runners in scoring position, every single inning we had runners in scoring position,” NIU softball head coach Christina Sutcliffe said. “There shouldn’t be a zero in any column on our side (of the scoreboard). Unfortunately, we didn’t have the timely hit when we needed it.”

The Huskies defense also struggled, committing three errors leading to two unearned Broncos runs. 

“I think if we play solid defense in that fourth inning, we’re going home with a win by several runs,” Sutcliffe said. “We have to figure out how to play clean ball for seven innings.”

Sophomore outfielder Payton Kelly led the way at the plate for the Broncos, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Senior catcher Madison Duell went 1-for-2 and also drove in three runs. 

Western Michigan took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning with an RBI double from Kelly. NIU responded in the bottom half of the third with two runs to take a 2-1 lead going into the fourth inning. 

The Broncos scored four fourth inning runs to take a 5-2 lead, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Kelly. The Huskies answered with one run in the bottom of the fourth to cut the Bronco lead to 5-3 headed into the fifth inning. 

A fifth inning two-RBI single from Duell gave the Broncos a 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. 

The Huskies put together a late rally, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Junior catcher Ellis Erickson notched an RBI single to cut Western Michigan’s lead to 7-4 and freshman utility player Danielle Stewart delivered a two RBI single to bring the Huskies within one. Following Stewart’s single, Bajusz struck out senior infielder Isabel Shafer to seal the win for the Broncos. 

“We knew that there was no lead that we couldn’t come back from,” Sutcliffe said. “We’re going to fight to the very end, until the last out. Unfortunately, we needed to do so a little bit sooner.” 


The Huskies’ next matchup will be a doubleheader against Western Michigan University at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday at Mary M. Bell Field. The game will be live streamed on NIU All-Access and live stats will be available via SideArm Stats