Softball splits double-header, takes series against Northern Illinois

Last Friday, the Central Michigan softball team earned the 2-1 win over Northern Illinois, taking the first game of the three-game set.

After blowing out the Huskies 9-1 in the first game of the afternoon in five innings, the Huskies got revenge by beating CMU 2-1 in the series finale to take one game.

Head coach Margo Jonker said both games had different feels to them.

“It was a tale of two games, the first game we did well and played good defense,” Jonker said. “In the second game we made errors and we didn't hit, if I knew the answer to why I would tell you by now but we just need to work on it.”

Ball State (29-21 overall, 13-5 Mid-American Conference) lost to Toledo earlier today, leaving the Chippewas (30-13, 13-5) in a tie for first place in the MAC West Division with the Cardinals.

The Chippewas scored early in game one. Sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis earned a walk, followed up by a Maison Kalina triple on the first pitch at bat to give CMU a 1-0 lead.

The Chippewas didn't stop there. Junior utility player Sydney Heath poked a single between the first and second baseman, bringing Kalina home for their second run of the afternoon.

After squandering a good scoring opportunity in the second inning, CMU didn't waste time taking advantage of its next chance.

After Kalina led off the inning with a double in the right field gap, sophomore second baseman Rachel Vieira hit a single back up the middle to extend CMU’s lead to 3-0.

Sophomore shortstop Kayla Noch laid down a bunt for a suicide squeeze that brought home Kalina from third, and then the throw to first base hit Noch for an error and resulted in a 4-0 CMU lead

The miscues continued for NIU as sophomore third baseman Sam Schmidt bobbled the ball and let it trickle into the outfield, scoring CMU sophomore pinch runner Shanel Waters from second base.

Lorimer followed with a triple off the right field wall, which scored Lewallen. CMU was blowing the doors off the Huskies, leading 6-0.

Back-to-back singles from Curtis and Kalina to start the fourth inning set up Heath for her three-run homer over the right field fence to give the Chippewas a 9-0 advantage.

Junior pitcher Hanna Warren (10-5) closed out the game for the mercy rule in the top of the fifth, as she cruised for most of the afternoon, but did have trouble in the fifth.

With the bases loaded and just one out, Warren got a ground ball to second base for the second out, but NIU scored on the play to cut the deficit to 9-1. A ground ball to the short stop on the next at-bat ended the contest.

Warren only allowed four hits in the five innings, earning the one run against her with a strikeout and a pair of walks.

CMU tallied 10 hits in the first game, with Heath having the biggest afternoon. She went 2-for-3 with a walk and a home run, giving her four runs batted in and one run scored of her own. Kalina also had a solid game going 2-for-3 with a triple and a double, scoring two runs and one RBI.

“I just had to make some adjustments today, because the pitcher was throwing a lot of change ups,” Heath said. “I just needed to wait on the ball and be patient, and it worked out for me today. We needed to win these games.”

In game two, Knapp got the start for CMU, and she had to work out of some trouble right away.

After giving up a single and a walk with two outs, Knapp got a soft ground ball hit to Lewallen at third who just stepped on the base for the force out to end the threat in the top of the first frame.

CMU picked up right where it left off in the first game.

The inning started with a pair of outs for NIU junior pitcher Keegan Hayes, but she then walked a pair of batters to set up Noch for a single that the outfielders bobbled. Kalina scored from second to give the Chippewas the early 1-0 lead.

Starting the third inning, NIU got a couple of runners on base, resulting in a suicide squeeze bunt from first baseman Kayt Grable, scoring the runner from third and tying the game at one run a piece. 

After a walk to put runners on the corners, NIU stole second base, and on the throw to second, the runner at third came home to give the Huskies the 2-1 lead.

Neither team had much going until the bottom of the fifth inning when junior left fielder Lacy Tolfree led the inning off with a single and got to second base with only one out. CMU, however, couldn't get her across the plate keeping the game at 2-1 heading to the sixth frame.

The sixth was scoreless, leaving CMU one last chance to get a run in the seventh to potentially sweep the doubleheader.

With a runner on second base, Knapp allowed a single to left field, where Tolfree picked up the ball and gunned down the runner at home plate to keep it a one run game.

The Chippewas couldn't answer the bell in the bottom of the final frame however, dropping the finale of the day.

Knapp picked up the loss, dropping her to 17-8 on the season, while Keegan picked up her sixth win of the year for NIU.

Jonker said the team is where it needs to be right now.

“This where we want to be, and we certainly can compete for this whole thing,” Jonker said. “We just have to put in the work and get ourselves in the position to win these games.”

The Chippewas will welcome Michigan State to Margo Jonker Stadium at 4 p.m. Wednesday before a weekend series against Ball State in a battle of two top teams in the MAC West.