Mercy Rule Used Twice As Bulls Drop Three At NIU
Just when things started to look like they were turning around for the softball team this season, the Northern Illinois University Huskies - ranked second in the Mid-American Conference - came in and handed the Buffalo Bulls their third demoralizing sweep of the season.
The Bulls played two games Saturday and one Sunday in Dekalb Ill., losing 9-0, 9-1, and 6-1 respectively. With the wins the Huskies broke a six-game losing streak, improving their record to 9-3 in conference (16-19 overall).
The victories also put them within striking distance of Central Michigan for first place in the conference, placing them a mere two games back. On the other hand, UB is still looking for its second MAC win as their record dropped to a paltry 1-11 (4-18 overall).
Game 1: Krahula Shuts Out UB For 9-0 Win
Both of Saturday's games were five inning contests due to an eight-run cap rule. Northern Illinois dominated throughout the first game and basically buried UB's chances by the end of the second inning.
The Huskies jumped ahead early on a two-RBI base hit by Samantha Knoll in the first inning. They proceeded to put the game out of reach in the second inning, breaking out with six runs, three of which came on a Kathy LeClear double to give the Huskies a virtually insurmountable 8-0 lead. NIU tacked on another run in the fourth on a RBI double by Paige Shemoski.
Jessica Kensey saved Buffalo from giving up the no-hitter to Huskies' pitcher Amy Krahula (5-10), when she singled to center field in the fourth. The lone hit spoiled an otherwise near perfect outing for the NIU pitcher.
"Both of our pitchers pitched well today and Amy really set the tone," said Northern Illinois head coach Donna Martin. "Amy came out aggressively early on and didn't let up once we got the lead. She was very economical and efficient today."
For Buffalo's part, pitcher Heather Robbins gave up nine runs off 12 hits to drop her record to 3-5.
Game 2: More Of The Same, Bulls Get Shelled 9-1
Dej?Ae vu. Well, not quite. The Bulls actually had the lead in the second game, as Kensey reached base on a fielder's choice and eventually went on to score off a wild pitch by Huskies pitcher Kathy Dearborn to put the Bulls up 1-0.
UB's lead was short-lived, however, as the Huskies put their offense on display yet again, scoring in four of the next five innings and ending the game 9-1 thanks to the eight-run maximum rule. The Huskies scored two runs in the first and third innings, followed by a run in the fourth and closing the Bulls out with four runs in the fifth.
For the game, Buffalo went 2-17 from the plate, while Northern hit 11-of-25 to score nine runs. Shemoski struck again with three RBIs for NIU, followed by Knoll who had a two-RBI day.
Dearborn earned her eighth win for Northern on just five innings pitched to improve her record to 8-5, while UB's Andrea Sage is still looking for her first win, falling to a disappointing 0-5 on the season.
Game 3: No Eight-Run Rule But Buffalo Still Falls 6-1
Well, at least they did not invoke the mercy rule this time. Nevertheless, Sunday's game offered no reprieve for the Bulls as their offensive drought continued.
LeClear came out to bite Buffalo yet again as she hit a 2-RBI triple in the bottom of the first and then scored on an overthrow by UB catcher Julie Hibner to put the Huskies up 3-0.
Northern added two more runs in the fifth inning off of two unearned runs driven in by Gretchen Szymski. Another run came in the bottom of the sixth with a Lisa Mattke-blast of a home run.
The Bulls scored their lone run in the top of the sixth, when a Hibner base hit scored Breanne Nasti who had doubled earlier in the inning. For the game, Buffalo had six hits from 28 at bats and seven walks. NIU went 6-28 as well, but unlike UB, they were able to convert their hits into runs through the order.
Krahula of the Huskies posted her second win against Buffalo for the weekend to go 6-10, while Stacey Evans took the loss for Buffalo, dropping her record to 1-6.
Next up, UB will square off against Kent State University for a three-game series starting Saturday, April 20 with a doubleheader at the UB Softball Stadium at 1 p.m. Fortunately for the Bulls, the series will open up a seven game home stint, where they have gone 3-2 so far this season.