Huskies drop home opener to Wildcats

By Andrew Hanson

The NIU softball players finally got to sleep in their own beds before a game, but they didn’t feel at home on the field.

In their first home debut at Mary M. Bell Field in DeKalb, the Huskies were defeated by No. 16 Northwestern 3-1.

“It’s great to be home, but we really haven’t been here,” head coach Donna Martin said. “We have to establish more of a home feeling.”

The Huskies (10-14) attempted a late-inning comeback, scoring their lone run on senior Kelly Drozd’s home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Wildcats (23-8) proved to be too strong.

“We played very tough against a very good team,” Martin said. “We played against their best pitcher and their starting lineup.”

NIU had opportunities to score but wasn’t able to capitalize on them. The Huskies left seven on base for the game, including a bases-loaded strikeout by junior Kelly Park in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“We didn’t take care of some opportunities to advance runners, and that’s the biggest difference between us and them,” Martin said.

The game started out as a dead lock between both pitchers.

Senior Lindsey LaChiana retired her first five batters, then allowed a walk with two outs left in the second inning.

In the top of the third, senior Ashley Crane singled off LaChiana to start the inning. The single started a run for the Wildcats that would bring in two runs.

LaChiana was replaced by sophomore Taryn Hagemann after four innings of work. Hagemann allowed one hit in two innings.

Hagemann was then replaced by senior Paige Granath to close out the game. Granath gave up three hits and one run in the final inning.

NIU’s pitchers combined to give up three earned runs on 10 hits and had three strikeouts.

The Wildcats were averaging 4.9 runs per game and were coming off four games where they totaled 44 runs.

“I was up all night looking at those numbers,” Martin said. “Our pitching did a great job.”

Northwestern’s pitcher, senior Courtnay Foster, retired NIU’s first seven batters until freshman Ashley Clement got a double.

Foster pitched a complete game, while giving up one earned run on four hits and 12 strikeouts.

Leading the way offensively for the Huskies was Drozd, who went 1-3 with one RBI off her home run, her third of the season.

Northwestern got a strong contribution from the heart of their lineup. Juniors Katie Logan and Garland Cooper, along with senior Kristin Amegin, combined to go 5-9 on the day, batting in all the runs.

Logan went 3-3 with one RBI and Cooper, the returning Big Ten Player of the Year, went 1-3 with one RBI.

“You either move on or you don’t,” Martin said. “If you don’t, you’re not getting better. We moved on today.”