Redbirts spoil softball home opener


Northern Star file photo

By James Cantagallo

After being on the road for 25 straight games, NIU softball returned to Mary M. Bell Field Tuesday, but the homecoming was spoiled.

Illinois State (19–13) rolled into DeKalb and beat the Huskies 5–0.

“We should have won,” said NIU pitcher Jessica Sturm. “On paper, we’re basically the same with that team, if not better than that team.”

The game got off to a rough start for NIU (12-14) when the Redbirds leadoff hitter Jhavon Hamilton belted the second pitch of the game for a home run to right center field.

NIU’s Megan Dortch then walked two batters before getting the first out of the game. Dortch later hit a batter to load the bases, but was able to get out of the jam without giving up runs.

NIU had a chance to answer in the bottom of the first, but was unable to score, despite recording three hits.

The Huskies got in a jam again in the third inning. Dortch walked the first two batters and gave up an RBI single to Illinois State’s Caiti Kopp. From there, Dortch’s day ended, and in came Sturm.

Sturm entered into a tough situation with bases loaded, but got the first batter she faced to hit into an 3-2-6 triple play to get out of yet another jam.

NIU coach Lindsay Chouinard said the triple play should have been a momentum shifter, but it was not.

The Redbirds would go on to score a run on a home run by Sara Bradley in the fourth and tacked on two more runs in the fifth.

Illinois State pitcher Megan Warner posted her first shutout of the season.

“You outhit somebody and you can’t score runs, I mean, that’s a killer,” Chouinard said. “Inability to execute really from all facets today, we just weren’t there.”

Redbirds coach Melinda Fischer said Warner came up big in key situations.

“She had some key pitches in key situations when they really threatened with bases loaded one inning and second and third another inning,” Fischer said. “I thought she got people to do what she needed them to do.”