Huskies host weekend tournament

By Carl Ackerman

Stopping the opposition’s offense and speed will be the main factors that determine the success of NIU’s softball team this Saturday and Sunday.

NIU (13-16-2) will be busy hosting the three-team double round-robin Huskie Softball Tournament.

The tournament will kick off Saturday at 11 a.m. with Eastern Illinois and Toledo squaring-off at NIU’s varsity diamond. NIU plays EIU at 1 p.m. with the NIU-Toledo match-up at 3 p.m. Sunday’s action begins at 10 a.m. with Toledo-EIU followed by NIU-Toledo at noon. The final game between NIU and EIU is scheduled for 2 p.m.

“It would be wonderful if we could get over the .500 mark this weekend,” said NIU coach Dee Abrahamson. “Our team goal is to win three of the four games. It’s obtainable, but we’re going to have to go out there and play hard.”

Toledo (17-17) will bring the NCAA home run leader, Rhonda King-Randolph, to DeKalb. King-Randolph is hitting .341 with eight homers and 33 RBI’s. Leigh Ross leads Toledo’s hitting attack with a .351 batting average while Christin Chadwick anchors Rocket pitching with a 1.61 ERA.

“They have a lot of lefties which means a lot of balls are going to get in play. They have three .300 players plus one with a .298 average,” said Abrahamson.

Although the Rockets are fueled in offensive talent, that’s not the team’s only strong point.

“I think the biggest thing that stands out is their 51 stolen bases. This shows that they’re quick and successful. Our pitchers have to make good pitches, and the catchers need to make good throws,” said Abrahamson.

With Toledo’s speed, the arms of catchers Julie Sexton and Mary Borem are likely to be tested, but Abrahamson is confident.

“We’ve been successful in throwing people out. Julie has been great, but a lot of it depends on the type of pitch that is thrown,” said Abrahamson.

NIU has made 46 attempts at stealing, and has held its opponents to just 25 stolen bases.

NIU’s other weekend opponent is not as quick on the basepaths, but at the plate they can be deadly. EIU tops the NCAA batting average at .320. EIU is led in hitting by 6th-ranked JoAnn Barnes with a .490 average plus 18 RBIs. Lefty Jill Richards carries a 1.78 ERA and a 4-2 record for the Panthers.

The Huskies have plenty of balance in their offensive attack as well. Five players are hitting in the .300 average range. Lisa Gilfoy leads the pack with a .388 average. Sexton and Jeanne Richeal have .378 and .367 averages, respectively. Rachel Ortiz (8-7) leads NIU in wins and ERA with a .205 mark.