Softball clinches berth in MAC Tournament


Senior Nicole Gremillion swings at a pitch against the Buffalo Bulls April 26 in DeKalb. The Huskies, who dropped both regular season games against Buffalo, open the MAC Tournament vs. the Bulls 4 p.m. Wednesday in Akron, Ohio.

By Frank Gogola

Softball qualified for the MAC Tournament for the second time in as many seasons under head coach Christina Sutcliffe, earning a No. 7 seed after it split its final four games.

The Huskies (23-29, 10-12 MAC) split their Friday doubleheader against the Akron Zips (27-14, 12-6 MAC) in Akron, Ohio. Saturday, they fell to the Ohio Bobcats (28-24, 12-8 MAC) in Athens, Ohio, but they responded for a Sunday victory.

The No. 7 Huskies will face the No. 2 Buffalo Bulls (27-20, 11-5 MAC) at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, in the first round of the MAC Tournament, which is a double-elimination tournament.

The Bulls swept the Huskies, 7-2 and 6-2, April 26 and 27 at Mary M. Bell Field. Sutcliffe said the Huskies will be looking for revenge.


The Huskies were blanked, 2-0, in game one against the Zips, as the offense never got going.

Akron pitcher Erin Seiler held NIU to five hits and struck out eight batters in seven innings. The Huskies were sent down in order three times and only had multiple runners on base in one inning.

“She was using her outside pitch to her advantage,” Sutcliffe said. “… I’d say 80 percent of her pitches were on the outside edge of the plate.”

Junior pitcher Jessica Sturm took the loss, giving up both runs in six innings of work.

In game two, the Huskies responded with a 9-4 victory, as the offense solved Seiler, who started for the second time in as many games.

The Huskies hung a six-spot in the fifth inning, chasing Seiler after Sturm launched a two-out grand slam to center field to put NIU up 7-3. They opened the inning with the first five Huskies reaching base, including a two-run single from freshman first baseman Kayti Grable.

“It’s tough to pitch to our offense that many times without us having success,” Sutcliffe said.

Freshman pitcher Becca Rupard picked up the win, surrendering four runs on seven hits.


Saturday, the Huskies’ offense was stifled by Ohio pitcher Savannah Jo Dorsey, as they dropped a 6-2 decision.

Dorsey held the Huskies to two runs on three hits. She struck out 13 Huskies and walked two.

“She was able to establish the zone … and had us guessing at the plate,” Sutcliffe said.

Grable launched a two-run home run to left field in the first inning, but the Huskies were held to two singles and one walk in the final six frames, being sent down in order three times.

The Bobcats got on the board via a two-run home run in the first inning and then struck for four runs in the third inning, chasing Sturm from the circle. Sturm took the loss, giving up six runs, five earned, on five hits and one walk in 2.1 innings.

Sunday, the Huskies downed the Bobcats, 6-1, with solid performances at the plate and in the circle.

Sophomore catcher Emily Naegele went 2-for-4 with a double a home run to lead the Huskies with three RBIs. Junior outfielder Bryanna Phelan, senior shortstop Shelby Miller and Grable each added one RBI.

“We came in hungrier from yesterday,” Sutcliffe said. “… The top of the lineup got us going early on.”

Rupard picked up the win for the Huskies, giving up one run on three hits and three walks in 6.2 innings.