Softball leaves pair of wins on field

By Frank Gogola

Softball had a chance to leave its quartet of weekend games with a pair of sweeps, but it instead left with a pair of splits.

The Huskies (17-20, 5-5 MAC) split their Friday doubleheader against the Ball State Cardinals (23-14, 4-2 MAC) and their Saturday doubleheader against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (17-20, 5-5 MAC) at Mary M. Bell Field.

Ball State

In the weekend opener, junior pitcher Jessica Sturm threw a complete-game shutout, and the Huskies defeated the Cardinals, 2-0.

Sturm surrendered two hits and two walks, hit two batters and struck out six batters in seven innings of work in the circle.

“I was just moving the ball in and out,” Sturm said. “My curve[ball] and screw[ball] were really working today.”

After getting on the board in the third inning, the Huskies added a second run in the fourth inning when pinch runner Kristyn Barrett scored on a bang-bang play at the plate.

“You can’t put a number on how big of a deal that is to get that second run,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe.

In the second game, freshman pitcher Becca Rupard gave up a grand slam with the game tied, 3-3, in the top of the seventh, and the Huskies lost, 7-4. Rupard got the first two outs of the inning before giving up a walk, a single and a walk to load the bases prior to the home run.

“I honestly don’t know what happened,” Rupard said. “I don’t really know what to say about that. I just messed up. That’s on me. I don’t know what else to say.”

Sturm started in the circle in the second game Friday after picking up the win in the first game. She surrendered three runs, one earned, on four hits and one walk in 2.2 innings of work.

Rupard replaced Sturm in the circle in the third inning and didn’t allow any runs until the grand slam in the seventh.

The Huskies tied the game, 3-3, in the sixth inning after going down 3-0 after three innings. They got one run back in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t overcome the grand slam.

Miami (Ohio)

The Huskies picked up a 6-1 victory in the series opener Saturday, as Sturm went all seven innings and the bats came alive after the second inning.

Sturm gave up one run on four hits while striking out two.

After the Huskies fell into a 1-0 hole, freshman first baseman Kayti Grable put NIU up for good with a two-run home run over the scoreboard in left field in the third inning. The Huskies added four runs in the fifth inning to go up 6-1.

In the weekend finale, the Huskies lost, 8-5, in extra innings, as a seventh-inning error proved to be too costly.

Senior shortstop Shelby Miller failed to cleanly field a ground ball while moving to her left with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh and the Huskies up 5-4. Miller’s error allowed the tying run to cross the plate.

“I make that play nine times out of 10 every day in practice,” Miller said. “… [It was a] routine ground ball, and I think I almost took it almost too routinely.”

In extras, the RedHawks put up three runs in the top of the eighth and held on to win.

Prior to Miami’s tying run in the seventh inning, the Huskies battled back from a 4-0 deficit with three runs in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead heading to the final frame.