April 17, 2014
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team hits the road for the first time this season in Mid-American Conference play when the Huskies travel to Michigan for a Friday doubleheader at Central Michigan and a weekend set with Eastern Michigan.
"I think we need to refocus on what travel does to our body and what we're trying to do," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe. "It has been a little while since we've been on the road. In the same sense, I think it makes it exciting for them. Sometimes a fresh look is good."
First pitch for game one of NIU's (17-20, 5-5) doubleheader with defending league champion Central Michigan (26-13, 5-3) Friday is set for 12 p.m. CT with the second game to follow. The Huskies will face Eastern Michigan (9-27, 0-8) Saturday at 1 p.m. and 12 p.m. on Sunday. There will be live stats for all four games with Friday's games available on cmuchippewas.com and Saturday-Sunday games on emueagles.com.
The Huskies enter Friday's contests with Central Michigan trailing the Chippewas by a game and a half in the MAC West, while Eastern Michigan enters the weekend still looking for its first league win.
Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) leads the way for the Huskie offense. The freshman first baseman ranks fifth in the league in batting average (.373) and slugging percentage (.664). She's seventh in the league in home runs with a team-best seven round trippers. Sophomore Emily Naegele (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) is right behind her with a .360 average and leads the team with 27 RBIs and in doubles with 11.
The Huskie offense will face a tough challenge in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Friday. CMU's Rachael Knapp leads the MAC with a 2.07 ERA and is second in opposing batting average (.207), while Morgan Yuncker leads the conference in that category with a .204.
(Wichita, Kan./Goddard) has been very effective in the pitcher's circle for the Huskies, especially in conference play. A two-time MAC West Pitcher of the Week this season, Sturm has a 4-3 mark and a 3.17 ERA in conference games. She is 11-10 in 25 appearances on the season with a 2.54 ERA.
It will be Sturm's task to contain the Chippewas' Trista Cox who is in the top 10 in six offensive categories including batting average (.362) and hits (42). Abby Davidson leads the way for the Eagle offensive attack. EMU is hitting .215 on the season with Davidson batting a team best .281 and Michelle Kriegshauser is right behind her with a .280 average.