NIU softball: Huskies take 3 of 4 from Bowling Green, Toledo

By Chris Loggins

Softball went 3-1 in two series against the Bowling Green Falcons and the Toledo Rockets.

The Huskies (18-14, 5-1 MAC) began the weekend by splitting a Friday doubleheader against Bowling Green (12-16, 3-3 MAC) at Mary M. Bell Field. They went on to sweep Toledo (12-22, 0-6 MAC), winning both games and closing out the weekend.

The Huskies are now 10-2 in their last 12 games and 5-1 in conference play.

Bowling Green game one

How it happened

The Huskies jumped out with two runs in the second inning before scoring two more in the fifth, pushing their lead to 5-0. The Falcons made a close comeback attempt, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth, but the Huskies held on and won the game, 5-3.

“One game is not going to define our conference season,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “We just need to bounce back. What we did today continues to put us in position at the top of the MAC.”

In the circle

Freshman pitcher Keegan Hayes got the start for NIU, giving up three runs on five hits and striking out four in the win. Senior pitcher Jessica Sturm entered in the sixth, pitching two scoreless innings and picking up the save, her second of the year.

At the plate

Junior catcher Emily Naegele went 1-3 in the game, driving in two of the Huskies’ five runs.

Bowling Green game two

How it happened

It looked as though the Huskies were well on their way to a sweep of the Falcons through five innings, but those hopes were dashed after Bowling Green had a sixth inning in which it put up nine runs. Several run-scoring hits along with a home run topped off the inning, and NIU was never able to bounce back. In the bottom of the seventh the Huskies put up a fight, scoring two runs before falling to the Falcons, 10-5.

“They’re fine. They’re focused. They know this was a fluke for them,” Sutcliffe said. “I don’t think I’ll have to do anything. They’ll figure it out.”

In the circle

Sturm got the start for NIU, giving up four runs on eight hits in five innings of work. Hayes came on for her, giving up five runs in only 0.1 innings before Tara Thacker relieved her and gave up one more in 1.2 innings.

At the plate

For the Huskies, Naegele again had a huge game in the series finale, going 2-4 with three RBIs.

Toledo game one

How it happened

The Rockets were able to hold off NIU through five innings, keeping the score at 3-1 in what was a quiet game up to that point. In the bottom of the sixth the Huskies caught fire starting with back-to-back solo home runs from first baseman Kayti Grable (her second of the day) and Naegele. Sturm added an RBI single to give the Huskies a 4-3 lead heading into the seventh. The Rockets bounced right back and took a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. In the bottom of the seventh, Naegele came up big again, hitting the walk-off winner to give the Huskies a 6-5 victory.

“We have a ton of energy,” Naegele said. “We almost used their energy to try and match them and be more energetic than they were.”

In the circle

Sturm pitched six innings for the Huskies, giving up four runs on nine hits in six innings. Hayes picked up the win, pitching only one inning and giving up one run.

At the plate

Grable hit two big-time home runs, bringing her total to a team-leading eight on the year. Naegele had another big game, hitting a solo home run along with the walk-off hit in the seventh.

Toledo game two

How it happened

Toledo got the game started fast, scoring four runs in the first inning, but NIU responded quickly with a four-run first of its own. After Bekah Harnish hit a three-run double in the second inning to give the Huskies an 8-4 lead, Naegele came through with a grand slam in the third, pushing the lead to 12-4. In the bottom of the fourth, Caitlyn Warren blasted a home run and brought the lead to 14-5, and due to the run rule the Huskies took the win in five.

In the circle

Sturm pitched a complete game for the Huskies, giving up five runs and six hits while improving to 9-8.

At the plate

Naegele stole the show for NIU, going 2-2 with a grand slam and five RBIs.

“Any way I can help my team, I don’t want to lag in one area,” Naegele said. “If everything comes around it’s great for everyone.”

Up next

The Huskies will look to stay hot this week with a doubleheader against the Loyola Ramblers at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Mary M. Bell Field.

“We’ve had some pretty focused practices,” Naegele said. “We know we’re playing our best ball right now, so practice has been intense. We’re excited.”