Huskies take two from Redbirds Team contributes in all-around effort

By Carl Ackerman

Key hits at key times score key runs.

Although it wasn’t pretty, NIU’s softball team was on key when it counted as the Huskies swept a doubleheader from its arch-rivals Illinois State Wednesday.

Host NIU staved off a late-inning comeback by the Redbirds to post a 3-2 victory in game one and created a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to win the nightcap 7-6.

A larger than usual crowd, which was partly due to a raffle of Cubs tickets and other prizes, helped bump NIU’s record to 13-16-2. ISU falls to 19-21.

“The crowd makes a big difference,” said NIU coach Dee Abrahamson. “It’s hard to play in front of a vacuum. We play better when the crowds are there to appreciate it. They helped us out a lot today.”

It wasn’t just the crowd that propelled NIU to triumph as Abrahamson pointed out.

“We had a lot of contributions from a lot of people today. We’ve had the ability to comeback all year. It’s tough to sweep a team. Our games with them (ISU) are usually really good and exciting until the very end,” said Abrahamson.

The opener began slowly until NIU’s Jeanne Richeal broke the ice in the third on a single to right-center which scored Jen Blasky, who reached earlier on a walk.

It was the first of four times Richeal would reach base in five attempts, which included two singles and a double.

“Jeanne played really well. She’s been doing a great job of getting on base all year long,” said Abrahamson.

With the score knotted at one, Julie Sexton led off the fourth with a single, stole second and scored on an RBI double by Ree Zenner. NIU added its third run in the fifth on a deep double to left-center by Richeal.

ISU made a small comeback in the sixth by scoring one run, but NIU shot down the Redbird’s attempt at any more tallies.

Kristen Vandenhouten (4-4) notched the win in seven complete innings while allowing five hits. Lana Davis suffered the loss for ISU.

NIU waited until the final inning to stage its dramatic comeback in game two. Down 6-5, pinch-hitter Stacy Paller led off the inning with a walk. Dawn Worden hit a routine grounder to the shortstop, but the throw to first wound up in the ISU dugout. Richeal was hit by a pitch which loaded the bases with nobody out. One out later Sexton bounced one off the second baseman’s glove and into rightfield to score the game-tying and game-winning runs.

NIU struck first in the first inning after an RBI single by Sexton that knocked in Richeal. Zenner’s suicide squeeze play forced in the second run.

After ISU tied it 2-2, NIU regained the lead in the fourth with two runs on three hits and an error. The inning was highlighted by a Mary Borem drive over the centerfielder’s head that knocked in NIU’s fourth run.

The Redbirds came right back in the fifth when they loaded the bases with nobody out. ISU added one run on a fielder’s choice and two on a single to right to take a 5-4 lead. ISU added one more in the sixth before the Huskies rallied to win.