AKRON, Ohio - The Northern Illinois University softball team took one step closer to winning a conference championship after coming back to defeat No. 3 seed Miami, 5-4, in dramatic fashion at the 2010 Mid-American Conference Tournament at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio Friday.
With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and the winning run at second, Andrea Colosimo (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) singled to right center field to drive in Dani Parrish (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) allowing the Huskies (25-33) to defeat Miami for the fourth time this season. The win also exacted a little revenge for NIU which lost both tournament games to Miami last season.
Trailing, 4-0, in the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies began their comeback with a three spot. The big blow of the inning came off the bat of freshman Jennifer Barnett (Indinapolis, Ind./Roncalli) who hit a three-run homer over the right field fence to pull the Huskies to within one. A lead-off homer by Adriana Sanchez (San Fernando, Calif./Alemany) in the bottom of the sixth tied the game. It was Sanchez' third home run of the tournament and all three came against Miami.
"The underclassmen came up big for us," NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard. "Andrea came up really big for us. I'm just really proud to see the team developing together."
Miami (33-24) took an early 4-0 lead with a four-run, four-hit third inning. Alicia Hogl delivered the go ahead hit with a grand slam to center field. That would be all the scoring the RedHawks would do the rest of the game.
Whitney Owens (Pendleton, Ind./Pendleton Heights), who came into pitch for Morgan Bittner (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) in the top of the fourth, shut down the RedHawks in four innings of work to pick up the victory. Owens limited Miami to two hits and two walks and pitched out of a jam in the top of the seventh to give the Huskies the chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh.
"Four shutout innings was huge," Chouinard said of Owens' performance. "It was what this team needed to keep us right there until the offense could figure out what it needed to do to adjust."
The Huskies will face No. 1 seed Kent State at 11:30 a.m. CST. NIU split the season series with the Golden Flashes and won last season's tournament game, 4-3. Another victory over Kent State will put Northern Illinois in the championship game.