March 28, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team opens the home portion of its 2013 season and Mid-American Conference play when the Huskies welcome Western Michigan to Mary M. Bell Field Friday.
"It's nice after 27 games to finally get on our own field," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "I think the kids are really excited not only to start the MAC schedule but to get in front of their friends and family."
The teams will play single games on Friday and Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Central Time respectively. Fans can follow all the action live, via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.
Friday's game not only marks the home and conference opener for NIU (10-17), but it's the first game the Huskies have played in almost two weeks. Northern Illinois had its Mar. 27 midweek match up with Loyola moved to April 10 due to inclement weather. With a break in the weather the last few days, the Huskies have spent time getting reacquainted with Mary M. Bell Field again.
Sutcliffe is hoping the Huskies can build off their success at the Highlander Classic two weeks ago. NIU finished the tournament 3-2 knocking off Iona and taking a pair from UC Riverside. NIU lost both its games to Notre Dame, losing in extra innings in both games.
"Our consistency has steadily increased," Sutcliffe said. "We ended on a roll in California. I think being on a field that many days in a row really showed how could we are. The pitching came back and our defense started sticking up again."
Pitcher Jessica Sturm (Goddard, Kan./Goddard) has gotten off to a strong start in her second season in the circle for the Huskies. The sophomore southpaw is 7-6 on the season with a 2.66 earned run average and one save. She's also performing at the plate with a .350 batting average in 20 at bats.
Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) and Jennifer Barnett (Indianapolis, Ind./Roncalli) lead the way for the Huskie offense. Both are batting above .300 with Gremillion hitting at a .333 clip, while Barnett is batting .305. Gremillion leads the team in runs scored with 19, while Barnett has driven in a team-high 15 runs this season.