Huskies contest Flames at home

By Carl Ackerman

NIU’s softball team will cap off its eight-game homestand today with a game against perhaps its most challenging North Star Conference opponents.

The 26-10 Illinois-Chicago Flames will arrive at Huskie diamond for a 4 p.m. doubleheader against the 16-17-2 Huskies.

“I would like to see us pitch as well as we did (last) weekend. Certainly, we had good pitching and offense. If we can do that against UIC, then we can be successful,” said NIU coach Dee Abrahamson.

NIU’s pitchers and hitters are sure to be tested by the balanced UIC attack.

Junior catcher Michelle MacCartney leads the Flames in hitting (.356 batting average), doubles (6) and hits (36). She is second on the team with 16 runs scored and had a 12-game hitting streak snapped last Saturday.

Another offensive threat is third basemam Joan Isabelli, who led the Flames with 25 runs and 11 sacrifice bunts last season. Isabelli finished .288 last year with 44 hits.

Sophomore pitcher Leigh Podlesny is also a threat to UIC opponents. She posted a 15-12 record with a 0.91 ERA, 159 strikeouts, six shutouts and at one point pitched 31 consecutive scoreless innings.

“They’re a pretty balanced team,” said Abrahamson. “They’re pitching is more experienced. They play solid defense and have been pounding out lots of hits. They have been playing really well, and we need to do the same.

“We need to build momentum for our upcoming tournament and the rest of our season. I would anticipate close games with UIC.”

NIU won last year’s confrontations with two scores of 4-0 at UIC. This year, however, the Flames have a new coach and a much improved team.

Mike McGovern, an assistant professor in physical education at UIC, is the new boss. He was a three-time All-America in 16-inch softball and played on four national runner-up teams. McGovern received his doctorate in physical education from NIU in 1983.

The Huskies travel to Valparaiso for the North Star Conference Tournament this Friday through Sunday, then return to NIU May 2 to host Northwestern for its final regular season home game.