Softball goes 4-1 in Arizona tourney

By Christopher Loggins

Softball (6-4) moved over .500 for the first time this season, picking up four wins in the Grand Canyon University Invitational over the weekend.

The Huskies played a total of five games over the weekend, including two against Texas State University, two against Grand Canyon University and one against the University of Montana. The team’s only loss came against Grand Canyon, falling to the Antelopes in the second game of a back-to-back on Friday.

“They’re just finally settling in,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe about her offense after the team scored more than 40 runs over the weekend, according to an NIU Athletics news release. “They’re getting into their groove and seeing some good pitches and being a little more disciplined at the plate than they’ve been.”

NIU beat Texas State 7-3 in the first game of the tournament Friday. Senior catcher Emily Naegele, who continued her hot hitting from last week, went 3-3 with a double and a home run, coming a triple short of hitting for the cycle.

Freshman pitcher Alex Frenz got her first win of the season, pitching a five-hit, three-run complete game, striking out nine batters.

The Huskies followed the good showing with a blowout loss to Grand Canyon, losing 11-3. Sophomore pitcher Tara Thacker took the loss, pitching 2.2 innings and giving up six runs on six hits.

The team bounced back with a strong performance Saturday, beating Montana 13-3. Naegele led the way again, going 2-2 with a home run and a double. The homer was her fifth of the season in her first seven games.

The bats stayed hot for NIU in the second game of the day — the team scored 10 runs for a second consecutive contest, beating Grand Canyon to even the weekend series between the two teams at a game apiece. Naegele and junior infielder Kayti Grable combined to go 6-9 for the Huskies, including four singles, a double and a triple. The win went to Frenz, who pitched 6.2 innings and gave up 15 hits and six runs, but was supported by a strong offensive showing.

The Huskies finished the weekend with an 8-6 victory over Texas State, going 2-0 against the team for the tournament. Sophomore pitcher Keegan Hayes pitched 1.2 innings and gave up no hits and no runs, leading her to a 3-0 record for the year.

Six different players knocked in runs for NIU, led by sophomore infielders Bekah Harnish and Alaynie Woollard, who contributed two RBIs each.

“Our offense really got into a groove,” Sutcliffe said. “We had a lot of different contributors. I think 1-9 found a way to get it done. If they can continue to do that, then we can make up [for] some errors we’re making in the field.”