May 6, 2014
DEKALB, Ill. - The Mid-American Conference recognized five members of the Northern Illinois University softball team for their outstanding 2014 seasons as the league announced its All-MAC teams and specialty award winners today.
"It shows that our program is headed in the right direction," said NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe on the number of All-MAC honorees for the Huskies in 2014. "Our players are dedicating themselves to growing our program.
"With some of the younger kids getting honors and the number of player and pitcher of the week honors we had this year, it just shows that we're doing some good things. When you have so many different kids getting it done, it shows that your program is headed in the right direction."
Freshman Kayti Grable (Santee, Calif./Santana) became the first Huskie since Stephanie Tofft in 2011 to earn MAC Freshman of the Year honors. One of two first-team All-MAC selections for NIU, Grable also made the MAC's All Freshman Team as well. Junior Jessica Sturm (Wichita, Kan./Goddard) garnered All-MAC honors for the second-straight season, joining Grable on the first team as utility/pitcher.
Senior Nicole Gremillion (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins) earned a spot on an All-MAC team for the third-straight time in her career, picking up second team honors in her final season as a Huskie. Sophomore catcher Emily Naegele (Oak forest, Ill./Oak Forest) also made second team All-MAC.
Senior Shelby Miller (Ottawa, Kan./Ottawa) became the second Huskie in as many years and the second all-time at NIU to earn the MAC's Nan Harvey Sportswoman of the Year Award. The Nan Harvey Award is given to a MAC player, coach or staff member who demonstrates the type of commitment, leadership, toughness and tenacious attitude that Harvey, an integral part of the University at Buffalo family for two decades, epitomized. Miller, a leader on and off the field, possesses all those qualities.
"It culminates what NIU is all about, being champions in the classroom, the community and in life," Sutcliffe said of Miller's Nan Harvey Award. "She exemplifies that which is the best in our program."
Miller has been a leader since setting foot on campus in DeKalb, Ill., making her mark on the team through community service as a freshman because she felt that was the best way for her to contribute to the team. She had ACL surgery just before coming to NIU, rehabbed and battled the injury throughout her freshman year to make the 2010 MAC All-Freshman Team.
As her playing time increased, so did Miller's community service efforts, because she saw it as her responsibility as a team leader. The two-time softball team captain is not only a team leader, but also within NIU's student-athlete community. Miller is a member of the four-person executive board on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and is the chair of events committee. She was also one of NIU 2014 Outstanding Woman Student Award winners.
Grable has already established herself as an offensive threat in her first season of collegiate softball. She leads the Huskies in seven offensive categories including batting average (.377), slugging percentage (.629) and in home runs with nine, which ranks third on NIU's single season home run list, while ranking in the top five in four other categories. Her 36 RBIs is second on the team and she has accounted for 12 multi-RBI games. Grable knocked in a career-high three runs four times this season.
"It stamps a label on her leadership role," Sutcliffe said. "The kids looked up to her with respect. To be able to get that done her freshman year with everybody looking at you is something that speaks wonders to her hard work."
A two-time MAC West Pitcher of the Week honoree in 2014, Sturm is just as comfortable in the batter's box as she is in the pitcher's circle. Fourth on the team in hitting with a .307 batting average, Sturm has a team best 14 wins on the season with a 2.57 ERA.
Gremillion leads the team in runs scored with 35 this season and is NIU's all-time leader in runs scored with 150. One of five Huskies to start all 52 games this season, she is second on the team in hitting with a .337 average with a team-high 61 hits, including four triples, which also leads the team. Her 55 career stolen bases in third on NIU's all-time career stolen bases list.
"Nicole's leadership role within our team has been her consistency," Sutcliffe said. "She has the ability to stay calm. When the pressure gets high, her calmness definitely shows through."
Naegele has made a real impact on the team and the league in her first season with the Huskies. The team leader in runs batted in (43) and doubles (14), Naegele carries a .335 batting average, which is third on the team. She is second on the team in home runs with five and tied for the lead in triples with four.
"Naegele coming in behind the plate and catching almost every single game, not only having the stamina to be able to do that, but having that ability to be there for Becca and Jess down the stretch has been huge for us," she said."
The Huskies (23-29, 10-12) return to action Wednesday, when NIU travels to Akron, Ohio for the 2014 MAC Softball Tournament. No. 7 seed NIU opens the tournament against No. 2 seed Buffalo. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT.