Softball loses 3 of 5

By Frank Gogola

Softball had its share of ups and downs this weekend, as it managed two wins in its season-opening, five-game tournament.

The Huskies opened the FAU Kick-Off Classic with a split decision against Louisville and Florida Atlantic Friday in Boca Raton, Fla. They split a pair Saturday against Ohio State and St. John’s. They closed out the three-day event with a loss to Tulsa Sunday.

The Huskies fell to the No. 18 Louisville Cardinals, 7-1, in their season opener Friday.

Pitchers Rebecca Rupard, Skylar Weinstein and Allyson Hecht surrendered a combined seven runs, nine hits and five walks in the loss. The defense committed four errors on the afternoon.

“When we’re playing Louisville, a top 25 team, we can’t just give them extra opportunities,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “They capitalized on our blunders; that was the difference [Friday].”

The NIU offense was held to one run on two hits and four walks.

After dropping their first game, the Huskies downed the Florida Atlantic Owls, the host team, 3-2.

Sophomore Emily Naegele got NIU on the board with a three-run home run to left-center field in the bottom of the first inning.

Junior starting pitcher Jessica Sturm hurled a complete game, surrendering only two runs on four hits and three walks.

“Her capability is to be our workhorse and dominate our conference,” Sutcliffe said. “She worked really hard in the offseason. She’s ready to carry the team, and [Friday] showed it.”

Saturday, the Huskies fell into a 3-0 hole against the Ohio State Buckeyes after three innings.

They managed three hits and one run in the seventh inning after posting only two hits combined through the first six innings; however, they came up short, 6-4.

Against St. John’s, the Huskies scored a season-high six runs on a season-high seven hits. They didn’t commit a fielding error for the first time this season.

Sturm surrendered two runs on seven hits and struck out four in 6.1 innings, picking up her second win in as many games

Through four games, Sutcliffe said it was “absolutely” the most complete game they had played.

“All three phases were working,” Sutcliffe said. “We had offensive production. Our defense stood tall when it needed to. And we pitched well.”

In the finale Sunday, the Huskies jumped out to a 1-0 lead over Tulsa after a leadoff double from senior Nicole Gremillion followed by two sacrifice bunts.

Tulsa tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the second inning, but the teams were kept off the scoreboard until the seventh inning.

With the bases loaded after two errors, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to load the bases, Sturm hit Tulsa’s Erica Sampson, which forced in the winning run. The Huskies lost, 2-1.