Softball’s slide hits three games

By Frank Gogola

With the MAC Tournament approaching quickly, softball suffered a setback against a pair of cross-divisional opponents over the weekend.

The Huskies (20-27, 8-10 MAC) split their Friday doubleheader against the Kent State Golden Flashes (24-16, 10-4 MAC) at Mary M. Bell Field, winning the first game.

They failed to pick up a win gainst the Buffalo Bulls (25-20, 9-5 MAC), losing Saturday and Sunday.

Kent State

In the opener, junior Jessica Sturm hurled a complete-game shutout, and the Huskies blanked Kent State, 2-0.

“Jess really kept them off balance,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “She did a good job against their lefties; she kept the ball away from them and then jammed them up inside.”

Freshman Becca Rupard got the Huskies on the board with an RBI single in the first inning. She drove in the Huskies’ second run when she reached on a fielder’s choice in the third.

“We’ve been trying to focus … on scoring early because we’ve been getting ourselves into holes, and we’re just trying to come out with energy early on,” Sutcliffe said. “Against a team on paper we’re not supposed to win against, [scoring early] just gave us confidence and momentum.”

In the nightcap, the Huskies dropped a 7-5, 12-inning affair as they couldn’t slow down Kent State freshman Ronnie Ladines.

Ladines went 3-for-6 at the plate with two runs scored and five RBIs, including a two-run single in the 12th for the win. She launched a two-run home run in the fourth and a solo home run in the sixth.

In the circle, Ladines gave up three runs on three hits in 4.2 innings after she hurled a perfect first four innings.

“She did good job with her changeup,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s the first time we’ve seen her, and our batters struggled early on. But they just stayed patient and were able to finally come through.”

With Ladines out, the Huskies plated two runs in the seventh to force extras. They had runners in scoring position in four of the final six frames, but couldn’t push the winning run across the plate.

“We just couldn’t hit it in,” Sutcliffe said. “We got them on and got them over, but just couldn’t drive them in.”


Saturday, the Huskies lost 7-2, as their offense sputtered out the gate and their defense committed costly errors.

The Bulls plated four runs, all unearned, in the sixth inning, taking advantage of three Huskie errors to go up 7-1.

“It definitely put the game out of reach,” Sutcliffe said. “It changed how we play the game from an offensive standpoint because at that point you just need runners, you can’t be very aggressive.

“I don’t really know what happened with our defense today. They just made some very uncharacteristic plays on very average balls.”

Buffalo pitcher Tori Speckman held the Huskies hitless until a Kayti Grable RBI double in the sixth inning.

“It’s her [pitch] speed that messed with us more than anything,” Sutcliffe said. “She’s way slower than most other pitchers; she definitely relies on her spin rather than her speed.”

Sunday, the Huskies lost, 6-2, as they couldn’t push enough runs across the plate.

Senior left fielder Nicole Gremillion plated both NIU runs on a pair of RBI triples.

Buffalo’s Speckman held NIU to two runs on four hits and five walks in seven innings.

The Bulls did most of their damage in the second frame, scoring four runs on five straight hits to open the inning.

“… We cleaned up a little bit [Sunday] defensively,” Sutcliffe said. “I think we had better at-bats [Sunday]. So, we did better, just not good enough.”