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Softball sweeps NIU in doubleheader with eight-inning battle

Clarkston freshman Abbey Tolmie, left, and Vicksburg senior Shaidan Knapp chat quickly during a game April 4 at Margo Jonker Stadium.

Entering the eighth inning tied at nine, the tension between the Chippewas and the Huskies grew more intense with each pitch thrown.

After winning the first game in the Mid-American Conference doubleheader 5-2, CMU (6-19, 4-11) was able to clean up NIU (12-23, 6-11) with a RBI sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning to sweep the day's doubleheader at Margo Jonker Stadium.

"Where there's an out, there's an opportunity," said head coach McCall Salmon. "After (the team) went up in the seventh, that's exactly what I said to them: 'where there's an out, there's an opportunity, there's not a better opportunity than now, you guys deserve this, let's go,' and that's how they were able to keep it simple."

Salmon praises the amount of depth and teamwork her team utilized to dig deep and pull out the last run for victory, despite having a few innings where there were batting struggles.

"The last at-bats gave us a little bit more confidence, I know we didn't hit well for a couple innings," Salmon said. "...It was nice to see us respond back and come through and all just work together with whatever we needed for that at-bat, that person in that position to do."

Game one: Key moments

The Chippewas wasted no time putting runs on the board in the bottom of the first for a quick lead. Junior Shannon Stein ripped a double to center field straight off the bat, scoring two runners.

Freshman Michaleigh Vallimont scored unearned off of an error in the bottom of the second, making up CMU's 3-0 lead over the Huskies.

In the top of the third, NIU's Kelly Walinski flied-out to left field but not before scoring Mackenzie Mahy to put a run on the board.

Vallimont nailed a double to left center in the bottom of the fifth, scoring sophomore Kelsey Alexander. The Chippewas tallied their score to five for the game, scoring sophomore Skylar Coberley from an error two plays later.

The Huskies tacked on one more run in the top of the seventh off a single. CMU was held scoreless in their half of the seventh, redeeming Friday's loss with a 5-2 victory.

Game two: Key moments

Stein opened the lead in the top of the first with a single up the middle to score senior Morgan Gardner.

On the next at bat, sophomore Caitlyn Britton singled to right center to score Stein and freshman Abbie Tolmie to cleared the home team a 3-0 first inning advantage.

The Chippewas added two more runs in the bottom of the second behind RBI singles from Sophomore Emily Bracamonte and freshman Abbie Tolmie. CMU claimed three more runs in the third to take an 8-1 lead. 

NIU added five runs in the fourth adding five runs to boost their deficit to the Chippewas by just two. The Huskies  tacked on two runs to tie the score in the sixth and one run in their half of the seventh to take a 9-8 lead.

In a nail-biting final frame for the Chippewas, Bracamonte found a quick opening for a double to right field. Senior Shaidan Knapp doubled to left and brought Bracamonte home to tie the score. Tolmie drew a walk in the next at bat, but Stein flied out to right field to claim the end of the inning, moving the Huskies and the Chippewas to a tense eighth inning.

Freshman Grace Lehto pitched a scoreless eighth inning, facing only four batters. The Chippewas pulled through and loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Bracamonte nailed a sacrifice fly to left field, allowing Vallimont to tag up and sprint home to finish the evening. 

Game two: Key stats

Britton pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Chippewas in game two, claiming one strikeout, three walks and allowed six runs for seven hits.

Lehto filled in for the final five frames, delivering two strikeouts --one strikeout looking-- and three walks as well as allowed three runs for six hits.

Vallimont and Coberley were the big scorers for the Chippewas, each claiming two RBIs and three hits.

Britton amounted for four hits, earning two RBIs. 

NIU amounted for 11 hits, Walinski leading the team with four. Claire Norred pitched two innings, striking out one and allowing six runs on eight hits. Mackenzie Bryan pitched 5 2/3 innings, delivering three strikeouts --two looking--, four walks and four runs on 10 hits.

Up next

The Chippewas and the Huskies will play to close the series at 2 p.m. Sunday.