April 25, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University softball team returns to conference action when the Huskies welcome Akron and Ohio to Mary M. Bell Field this weekend.
Northern Illinois (17-27, 7-7) will face Akron in doubleheader action Friday and will take on Ohio Saturday and Sunday. The Zips come into town 18-24 overall and 4-10 in league play. Ohio, which opens the weekend at Western Michigan Friday, is 23-22, 6-8 in the MAC. Friday's action begins at 1 p.m. CT, while first pitch for Saturday and Sunday's games will be 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. respectively. Fans can follow all the action live via Gametracker at NIUHuskies.com.
This weekend is Alumni Weekend at Northern Illinois. NIU Athletics would like to welcome all former Huskie softball players, coaches and their families to Alumni Weekend April 26-28. There will be a reception at Fatty's Pub and Grille following Saturday's game and a pregame tailgate Sunday before the Huskies take on the Bobcats. For more information or to RSVP, contact assistant director of development Kyle Skarb at 815-753-9198.
The Huskies enter play on a six-game conference winning streak and look to rebound from a 5-4 setback to UIC Wednesday at home. NIU went 4-0 last weekend, taking doubleheaders from Kent State and Buffalo, and swept Eastern Michigan at Mary M. Bell Field April 13-14. Northern Illinois is currently third in the Mid-American Conference West Division standings and fifth in the race for the eight MAC Tournament spots. NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe knows this is an important weekend for the Huskies.
"Winning six straight is huge for our program," Sutcliffe said. "We're definitely going into the weekend trying to win three out of four. I have a feeling if we win four more MAC games, we're in the tournament. That's our goal and we're doing what we need to to get there."
Erika Oswald (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) has stepped up her play in league games batting .395 in MAC games, well her season average of .259. Her two home runs on the season came against conference foes, while 13 of her 22 RBIs have come against MAC opponents.
(Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) continues to lead the NIU offense batting .345 on the season and.383 clip in league play. She leads the team in runs scored with 35 and is second on the team in homers with four, all coming against MAC opponents.
Pitcher Emily Norton (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) has come on since the start of league play. She accounted for six of NIU's seven conference wins this season, going 4-0 against Kent State and Buffalo. The right hander has an earned run average of 3.82 in league action, allowing 39 runs, 32 earned, on 58 hits while striking out 33.
Lefty Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) has pitched better than her numbers reflect. She is 1-4 in conference play with a 3.08 ERA, allowing 29 runs, 16 earned. Sturm and Norton have provided Sutcliffe with a solid 1-2 punch from the circle, keeping opposing batters off their feet.
"Jess and Emily can have their moments," she said. "They're two completely different pitchers. It's sometimes hard to say which one will do better against an opponent. We're trying to patch them both together. When one gets in trouble, look to bring the other one in. That's been our thought process going in, that they will split the game and finish each other out."