Shaidan Knapp leads offensive attack in Chippewas' rout of NIU
Senior centerfielder Shaidan Knapp singled twice and drove in two runs -- in the first inning.
Knapp kickstarted a 10-run first inning for Central Michigan with a single to right, then singled to left to start the second time through the order. She added a triple in the second inning and a double in the fourth, amounting to a four-hit, career-high four RBI game.
The Vicksburg native was part of a collectively sound offensive performance that propelled the Chippewas (7-19, 5-11) to a 15-7 Mid-American Conference win over Northern Illinois (12-24, 6-13), clinching the team first MAC series win.
"I think any time you can set the tone offensively and have those big innings, opening with ten runs in the first, I think was huge," coach McCall Salmon said. "I was really proud of our offensive approach."
Knapp was one of eight players to reach base in the first inning. The Chippewas scored their first run on an error by NIU second baseman Megan Guericke, then plated two more on a double from sophomore Caitlyn Britton.
"Any time you can get the leadoff hitter on base consistently, your team is gonna do good things," Salmon said.
Before long, it was all Chippewas. Knapp singled in two more with a single and junior Shannon Stein crushed a bases-clearing double to right-center to push the lead to double digits with two outs in the first. NIU responded in the top of the second, scoring four runs thanks to Kira Mickelson grand slam to left.
However, Knapp was once again there for CMU. The senior answered with her first triple of the season, which scored two.
"Shaidan, not only today but all weekend, had a great presence at the plate," Salmon said.
The Huskies wouldn't go away offensively, as they strung together three runs in the top of the fourth. Mickelson continued her big day with a double to chase Lehto, and Amberly Rodriguez followed with a double of her own off Caitlyn Britton to make it 14-7. Britton stopped the rally with a strikeout, stranding NIU runners at second and third.
Knapp doubled with one out in the bottom of the fourth and scored on a single from Abbey Tolmie to make it 15-7. Britton pitched around a bases-loaded jam in the fifth to invoke the mercy rule victory.
Knapp finished her day with four hits, the fifth time in six games that she has had amulti-hit game. Stein added 3 RBI to continue her own personal hot streak and add to her team best 19 RBI's. Britton, playing in her 10th game of the season, had two RBI.
Mickelson finished the game with five RBI to lead the Huskies. A .190 hitter coming into the game, Mickelson tied her season high in hits and set a new career-high in RBI's.
Lehto went three-plus innings, giving up seven earned runs on six hits and three walks. Britton sealed the deal by securing the final six outs, three of which were strikeouts.
"(Lehto) gave us everything she had," Salmon said. "She's thrown a lot of pitches these last couple of days so going into today we just told her, 'Just give us what you've got,' and she did exactly what we needed her to do."
Now on a three-game win streak, the Chippewas stay at home for a four-game series with Buffalo (9-23, 7-10). They will play one game at 3 p.m. Friday, a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Saturday and one game at noon on Sunday.
"Our team goal was to win every MAC series and this was the first time we've done that," Salmon said. "So now, moving into Buffalo, it just gives us confidence in all aspects of the game."