Softball drops three of four against Kent State

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Northern Star File Photo

Softball takes 4 of 5 in the Billiken Spring Tournament

Justin Kelley, Reporter

DeKalb — The softball team held its first home series of the season March 26-28 against the Kent State University Golden Flashes. This was NIU’s first home series since the 2019 season when they played the Western Michigan University Broncos on May 4, 2019.

NIU dropped three of its four games against Kent State, moving its record to 7-15 overall and 2-6 in the Mid-American Conference. Kent State won the first three games of this series, winning two Friday and one Saturday.

NIU was able to prevent the sweep by winning the final game of the series  Sunday.

NIU’s top performers for the series were junior infielder Carley Goetschius and junior catcher Katie Keller. Goetschius and Keller combined for eight hits and 11 runs batted in against Kent State.  

Friday Game One: Kent State 11, NIU 0

The Golden Flashes came out aggressive in the first game and as a team combined for 11 hits in the 11-0 win. NIU had a difficult time finding its stride on offense as they only had two hits as a team and combined for eight strikeouts.

The Huskies also had some issues in the field as they had three errors against the Golden Flashes. Those errors were costly as they accounted for nine unearned runs in the game.

Kent State jumped out to a 5-0 lead after a three-hit inning in the top of the third. The Golden Flashes extended the lead to 11-0 in the top of the fifth inning, scoring six runs off five hits and two errors. 

NIU was unable to mount a comeback in the bottom of the fifth inning, bringing the game to an end due to the mercy rule of being down by eight runs or more.

Friday Game Two: Kent State 12, NIU 5

Kent States’ momentum carried over to game two of the doubleheader, defeating NIU 12-5 on 12 hits and three home runs. NIU was more successful on offensive in game two and recorded five runs off of seven hits.

Unfortunately for NIU, those five runs did not come until the last two innings of the game when Kent State had a commanding lead. Kent State sophomore pitcher Gabbie Sherman shut down NIU through the first five innings of the game, only allowing two hits.

Kent State took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning after a solo home run by senior designated hitter Brenna Brownfield. From there, things started to get out of hand as Kent State extended its lead to 7-0 after six more runs over the next three innings.

The Huskies finally got on the scoreboard and cut the deficit to 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, after scoring two runs off a home run by Keller.

Softball opens MAC play with a split at Buffalo (Northern Star File Photo)

The Golden Flashes answered back with a couple of home runs of their own in the top  of the seventh inning. Junior centerfielder Brooklyn Whitt and junior first baseman Megan Turner both homered and drove in six runs to extend Kent States’ lead to 12-2.

NIU was able to cut the deficit down to 12-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning after a home run by first-year infielder Ellis Erickson. The late run by NIU was not enough and Kent State went on to win 12-5.

Saturday: Kent State 10, NIU 8

NIU got on the board first in game three of the series after a single by Goetschius scored Keller and gave NIU a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Golden Flashes rallied back and took a 2-1 lead after a three-hit inning in the top of the second.

The Huskies retook the lead 4-2 in the bottom of the second inning with timely hitting by Keller and junior utility player Mackenzie Mahy. NIU also benefited from two costly errors by Kent State at the start of the inning. 

The Golden Flashes were able to overcome those mistakes and tied the game at 4 in the top of the sixth inning. Senior catcher Carlee Selle doubled to drive in Brownfield to make it a 4-3 game. Selle then scored to tie the game after a single by senior pinch hitter Madyson Cole.

In the bottom half of the sixth inning, NIU retook the lead 8-4 after a grand slam by Goetschius, scoring Keller, Mahy and sophomore second baseman Sam Mallinder.

Kent State showed they still had some life left in the top of the seventh inning as they were able to tie the game up at 8. Sophomore pinch hitter Autumn Acord led off with a solo home run to cut the deficit to 8-5. 

Then, senior left fielder Alexis Taube tied the game with a three-run home run. Kent State forced extra innings after shutting down in the bottom of the seventh inning.

In extra innings, neither team found much success and only combined for one hit. In the top of the ninth inning, Kent State took a 10-8 lead after a double by redshirt senior third baseman Olivia Sborlini.

The Golden Flashes went on to win the game 10-8 after shutting the door on NIU’s chances in the bottom of the ninth.

Sunday: NIU 7, Kent State 5

In the fourth and final game of the series, the Golden Flashes jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Brownfield doubled home senior second baseman Kaitlyn Miller to start the scoring run. 

Kent State scored three more runs off a triple by Taube and fielders’ choice by Selle. Unlike Kent State, NIU had a hard time at the plate and only had two hits in the first two innings.

It wasn’t till the bottom of the third inning when NIU scored its first run of the game when Erickson scored off a bunt by sophomore third baseman Izzy Smith. The Huskies tied the game at 4 after two hits and fielders’ choice in the bottom of the third. 

The remainder of the game stayed close with two lead changes. Kent State retook the lead 5-4 in the top of the fourth inning after Brownfield singled and scored Miller.

The Huskies took back the lead 6-5 and gained momentum in the bottom of the fourth inning after a two-run home run by Erickson. NIU extended its lead to 7-5 in the same inning after a single by Keller scoring Mallinder.

NIU senior pitcher Mackenzie Bryan was able to shut the door over the next two innings and only allowed one hit. NIU went to pick the win 7-5.

The Huskies’ next game is 2 p.m. Friday against the University of Toledo Rockets in Toledo, Ohio.