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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Softball survives late comeback, nabs first win of 2024

Tim Dodge
Then-freshman utility player Danielle Stewart (22), at bat, watches the ball fly after swinging during an NIU softball game against Central Michigan University on April 1, 2023 at Mary M. Bell Field in DeKalb. Stewart recorded 2 RBIs in NIU’s victory over Western Illinois University Friday. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

Seven different Huskies crossed home plate as NIU used early domination over an in-state rival to begin 2024 in the win column.

NIU softball (1-0) successfully fended off a late comeback Friday to outlast Western Illinois University (0-1) 8-6 in the opening game of the Doc Halverson UNI-Dome Classic at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. 

“We came in with a plan, and we were able to execute it,” said NIU softball head coach Christina Sutcliffe.

Sophomore catcher/utility Trinity Jones Estrada batted in a career-high three runners. Senior infielder Caitlyn Shumaker and sophomore pitcher/utility Danielle “Dee Dee” Stewart each posted two RBIs.

On defense, Stewart’s stingy pitching played a crucial role in holding the Leathernecks scoreless for the first five innings. On the mound, she struck out four batters while permitting just 1 hit and 1 walk through five innings.

“Dee Dee just had a great day,” Sutcliffe said. “She had a no-hitter going through the fifth; had the home run. She was definitely a catalyst for us.”


Five of NIU’s 8 scoring runs came by way of an explosive performance in the game’s third inning.

Senior catcher/outfielder Ellis Erickson got the scoring started with her successful scamper to home on a passed ball, shortly after blasting a ground rule double on her first hit of the game.

“I was really just thinking ‘stay simple and just attack the first pitch,’” Erickson said. “And all the other girls at bat before me, most of them had a first pitch strike, so I was really looking for that.”

Three batters later, Shumaker launched a 2-RBI-single down the infield line, setting up junior midfielder/outfielder Avery Carnahan and freshman outfielder Katy Ramage as the second and third Huskies to score. Jones Estrada tacked on another 2-RBI-single to balloon NIU’s lead to 5-0.


With NIU leading 7-0 after the fifth inning, Western Illinois roared to life in the final two frames. The Leathernecks scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth to trim NIU’s lead to 7-3.

Jones Estrada gave the Huskies room to breathe with her third RBI of the day in the top of the seventh, doubling to center field while granting sophomore outfielder Brianna Pechman a scoring opportunity.

In the seventh inning, WIU added two more runs to the board before NIU snuffed out the Leathernecks’ comeback hopes with two fly outs.

Scheduled to face the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Northern Iowa – both NCAA Tournament participants a season ago – in back-to-back games Saturday, NIU’s key to rectifying its late-game woes stems from self-trust.

“I think as a pitching staff, (we) just need to trust ourselves and trust our defense,” Stewart said.

The first pitches are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. Live statistics for both games can be accessed on SIDEARM Sports.

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