Nov. 15, 2012
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University head coach Christina Sutcliffe announced the signing of six softball players for the 2014 team Thursday.
Sutcliffe signed Illinois natives Jordyn Bowen and Kali Kossakowski from Grayslake, Ill. and Elgin, Ill., respectively. Emily Jackson of Woodinville, Wash., Skylar Weinstein of Scottsdale, Ariz., Morgan Leonard of Peoria, Ariz., and Kaytlin Grable of Santee, Calif. also join Sutcliffe's first class.
"We're excited about our first full recruiting class. All six players will come in and compete for spots immediately," Sutcliffe said. "All six will extend on the culture we are currently building and will continue to build on the program's success of the past."
Bowen, who also plays outfield for the Illinois Chill Gold in the summer, is a standout defensive shortstop whose hustle and energy helped lead Grayslake North to its first supersectional berth in school history. Sutcliffe has Bowen pegged for an outfield spot as a Huskie, where she will be even more free to play her aggressive defensive style. She was named a part of the all-conference team in the Fox Valley Conference in both 2011 and 2012 in addition to garnering Lake County all-area honors from the Daily Herald this past season.
"She's a speedy little out-fielder, lefty, slapper hitter," she said. "She plays for a local Illinois Chill organization that I have a ton of respect for. They are doing the right thing. I know she is going to get better in this next year working with them. I'm super excited about having her."
Kossakowski is a quick-footed, defensive-minded shortstop that set the state record for stolen bases with 31 in 2012 for St. Edward Central Catholic in Elgin. She will lay claim to four varsity letters by time she graduates in May while along the way collecting multiple Daily Herald all-area honors. Kossakowski, who plays for the Wasco Diamonds club team, is not only the daughter of former NIU wrestling captain Jim Kossakowski, but is also the great-great-granddaughter of legendary Olympian Jim Thorpe.
"Kali is actually the first kid that I saw after getting the Northern Illinois job," Sutcliffe said. "I ran into her coach while I was in transition. I saw her right away. Her dad wrestled here so it's pretty cool to continue that family tradition."
Jackson is the starting shortstop of a juggernaut Woodinville High School team that won a state championship in Washington this year and also finished in the top 25 of the ESPNHS.com national rankings. The suburban Seattle standout starred in that state final, collecting pairs of hits, RBI, and runs in a 6-0 shutout of nationally ranked Walla Walla. Jackson, who plays second base for the Washington Absolute Blast in the summer, was named first-team All-Kingco Conference in 2012 and will return as the team's co-captain in 2013.
"Emily is a solid middle infielder from Washington," Sutcliffe said. "Smooth, smooth hands. She's just a true competitor. You can tell she works hard, loves the game, gritty, always dirty. She's a good kid."
Weinstein pitched for Chaparral High School in Scottsdale during the 2012 where she compiled a 12-6 record to go with a 3.89 ERA and 142 strikeouts over 111 2/3 innings pitched. She was named an honorable mention by the Arizona Republic in 2011 after leading Chaparral to the state semi-finals with her 3.12 ERA. The hard-working, hard-throwing Weinstein will look to break into the Huskie pitching staff in 2014. In the summer, she is an ace for the Arizona Hotshots Gold Ghatti team.
Leonard split time between catching and roaming the outfield for the 2012 state division II runner-up Sunrise Mountain Mustangs. She has been named second-team all-conference two years running thanks in part to her .393 and .432 batting averages in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Leonard received an all-state honorable mention from the Arizona Republic each of the last two seasons. Sheis a catcher for the Arizona Hotshots Gold Ghatti team in the summer where she is the battery mate of Weinstein.
"Morgan is a catcher, outfielder from Arizona. She catches for Skylar on the same summer team," she said. "Both of them are going to come in and I think instantly make an impact. It's exciting to have their connections to those clubs out there but the familiarity of them both coming knowing that they pitched and caught together for a couple years is going to be something really good."
Grable, a catcher and first baseman at Santana High School in suburban San Diego, was named the Grossmont Valley league player of the year in 2012. Grable has perhaps the biggest bat in Sutcliffe's signing class, as she slugged her way to 10 home runs, 46 RBI, and a .486 average over 107 at-bats during the 2012 season. Her 27 career home runs are already a Santana High School and Grossmont Valley League record with the 2013 season yet to be played. The will-be four-year varsity letter winner will continue to punish opposing pitchers as a team co-captain next spring. Grable catches and plays a corner outfield position in the summer for the SoCal Breakers Gold.
"Grable is going to be a big power hitter. She is going to compete as a catcher and possibly a corner player," Sutcliffe said. "I got to see her out in Colorado. I was pretty excited with what I had. I'm really excited about her loyalty to the program through the transition and I think that speaks volumes for her character and her wanting to be a Huskie."
The Huskies open the 2013 season against Illinois State at the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas Feb. 8.