Shepeck Shuts Down NIU
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - A freshman stole the show on senior day as WMU softball rookie hurler Mackenzie Shepeck worked five perfect innings to preserve the Broncos' 4-2 win.
Shepeck entered the circle to start the top of the third inning after batting for Becca Shemberger in the bottom of the second. At that point, Northern Illinois held a 2-1 lead thanks to a deep foul out that allowed a runner to tag from third and a single through the left side.
The Gladstone, Mich., native went to work, striking out three batters, forcing four ground outs, two pop outs and six fly outs during her five perfect innings. The Huskies batters worked Shepeck to a three-ball count only once and that was NIU's final batter of the game, Ashley Kopp, who struck out swinging on a 3-2 offering.
The Broncos took the lead for good in the home half of the fourth on Shepeck's second career home run as the freshman belted the first pitch she saw over the right center field wall to give WMU a 3-2 lead.
"I had been telling Emma [Bogart] just swing and and square yourself all day and right before that at bat, Jenn [Tschetter] said the same thing to me. I just squared myself and it felt so good because I hadn't been swinging the bat well. I am very happy," commented Shepeck.
Bogart must have listened to Shepeck as well because the Phoenix, Ariz., native hit a double to the left center field wall in the bottom of the third to tie the score at two runs apiece, scoring Gracie Barstad who led off the inning with base hit through the left side.
Barstad went 2-for-3 at the plate on the day. She led the Bronco offense as seven different batters had a hit on Sunday. One of those came off the bat of Meredith Whitney, who in the first inning struck out the side to become only the third WMU pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season, now with 201. She joins Laura Stewart (236) and Krysten Shumaker (239) who accomplished the feat in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
Western Michigan enters the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament as the No. 5 seed and will face No. 8 seed Toledo in the event's opening game on Wednesday, May 9 at 11 a.m. in Akron, Ohio at Firestone Stadium (home of the Akron Racers).
Ball State is the 2012 MAC regular season champions and is the No. 1 seed. Miami earned the No. 2 seed followed by Bowling Green and Ohio. Central Michigan is the No. 6 seed, while Kent State is the No. 7 seed. The Chippewas and Golden Flashes will play in the second game of the opening day at 1:30 p.m.
A Bronco win over Toledo would pit WMU against No. 4 Ohio at 5 p.m. late Wednesday afternoon. A loss and WMU would not play again until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10.