Softball opens MAC play with a split at Buffalo


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Softball opens MAC play with a split at Buffalo

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — The softball team opened Mid-American Conference play splitting a pair of games against the University of Buffalo Sunday in Buffalo, New York.

The Huskies lost the first game against the Bulls 8-4 after relinquishing a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning before defeating Buffalo 10-4 in the second contest of the day.

“We knew we had to come out of here with a split,” Sutcliffe said to NIU Athletics. “We can’t open up the conference getting swept so our goal was to score as much as we could, as often as we could. Get a lead and hold it and get out of here.”


Sunday morning – Buffalo 8, NIU 4

NIU struck first in the double-header’s opening game. First-year infielder Bianca Barone opened the top of the second inning with a single to left center field. Barone reached second after a senior infielder Sam Schmidt groundout to Buffalo senior pitcher Lace Smith.

With two outs and Barone on second, sophomore catcher Kira Mickelson smacked an RBI single to left-center field to give the Huskies the first run of the game.

NIU added to its lead in the third when senior infielder Abby Howlett scored off a senior outfielder Jenny Van Geertry RBI single to right field to give the Huskies a 2-0 advantage.

Schmidt was walked with one out and nobody on base in the top of the fourth. With two outs and Schmidt still on first base, Howlett knocked an RBI double to right-center field to bring her in and give NIU a 3-0 lead.

Howlett advanced to third after a senior outfielder Katie Lamich bunt single. The South Elgin native scored to give the Huskies a 4-0 lead after Lamich was caught stealing second to end the inning.

Buffalo took advantage of the Huskies’ lackluster defensive performance in the top of the fifth, scoring seven runs on four hits and one NIU error.

“We took our foot off the gas a little bit in the first game,” Sutcliffe said. “We started cruising just a tad and unfortunately that came back to bite us in the butt. Obviously, we played six great innings. We just couldn’t get out of that fifth inning.”

The Bulls tallied another run in the sixth and held the Huskies hitless for the remainder of the contest to take the 8-4 win.


Sunday afternoon – NIU 10, Buffalo 4

NIU used a six-run second inning to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game. The Huskies started the second with Barone being hit by a pitch and senior infielder Dominque Greeno being walked, advancing Barone to second.

During the next at-bat, Mickelson smacked a double to center field to bring Barone and Greeno home. First-year outfielder Kara Apato brought in Mickelson with an RBI single to left field.

Schmidt was walked in the next at-bat, advancing Apato to second. Two at-bats later, Van Geertry knocked a 2-RBI triple to center field to bring in Howlett and Apato and give NIU a 5-0 lead.

Van Geertry then scored on a first-year outfielder Amberly Rodriguez ground out to give the Huskies a 6-0 advantage before junior infielder Anne Allen flew out to right field.

Buffalo scored four runs on three hits in the bottom of the second to reduce NIU’s lead to 6-4. With two outs and runners on second and third, sophomore pitcher MacKenzie Bryan struck out Buffalo senior infielder Catrell Robinson to end the inning.

The Huskies scored two more runs in the third and fourth innings to take the eventual 10-4 victory for their first conference win of the season.

NIU, with a 14-15 overall and 1-1 MAC record, will return to action in a three-game series against Ohio next weekend. First pitch is 2 p.m. Friday in Athens, Ohio.