No NCAA call for Huskies

By Jeff Kirik

The Huskies waited, but the call never came.

After cruising through its 1989 schedule and posting one of the top records in the country, the NIU softball team failed to receive its second consecutive berth in the NCAA College World Series.

The Huskies, who finished seventh in the 1988 World Series, had better winning percentages than 18 of the 20 teams that made the tourney’s field. Only UCLA (41-4) and Oklahoma State (42-4) had better records.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed,” said NIU coach Dee Abrahamson. “We still feel we put together numbers that should have been good enough to get us into the tournament.”

NIU, which closed the season as the nation’s 16th-ranked team, also put up strong numbers against several of the teams that qualified for the tournament, winning eight times and losing twice. The Huskies defeated Connecticut three times, Florida State twice and Wichita State once, while splitting a pair of games with both Creighton and Iowa.

True, NIU’s season did end a little earlier than the Huskies would have liked, but they earned plenty of honors along the way.

Jill Justin, the owner of the university’s softball record book, leaves the university as the only NIU female athlete to garner three First-Team All-America selections. The power-hitting center fielder led the country in hitting in 1987 (.503) and 1988 (.484), and her .443 average in 1989 should be among the leaders when the final statistics are released later this summer. She ended her career with a .467 average.

“This definitely caps my Northern Illinois career; the All-America award is a nice way to end my four years,” said the two-time Northern Star student-athlete of the year.

Justin also claimed her fourth straight All-Regional award. She has been All-Midwest her last three seasons, after earning All-Mideast honors her freshman year.

Pitcher Beth Schrader, who also closed her NIU career this season, won her share of acclaim, too. Schrader put together solid number both on the field and in the classroom on her way to receiving her third consecutive selection as a GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American.

After earning a 3.48 grade-point average and going 21-3 on the mound, Schrader was named a Third-Team Academic All-America. The interior architecture major was a third-team honoree in 1987, before gaining first-team status in 1988.

“With her third Academic All-America award, Beth has established a classroom standard for our program and for the Northern Illinois student-athletes to reach for,” said Abrahamson.

Like Justin on offense, Schrader holds a majority of NIU’s pitching records, including career wins (68), single-season wins (24 in 1988) and career shutouts (31). She was selected as Second-Team All-Midwest Region and First-Team All-North Star Conference.

Sophomore first baseman Lisa Gilfoy was the last of three NIU All-Midwest picks. Gilfoy, a first-team selection, closed the season with a .350 average, good for second on the team.

Gilfoy earned her second straight All-North Star Conference pick, joining Schrader, pitcher Shari Edwards and outfielder Ree Zenner as 1989 North Star honorees. The Huskies were undefeated in the conference tournament, shutting out every team they faced.

“As a group, the four representative of our team’s North Star tournament play,” said Abrahamson. “Beth and Shari each pitched well in the series and didn’t force our defense into pressure situations. Lisa’s consistent tournament play is a reflection of her play all season.

“Ree’s award is quite an honor for a freshman. She came up with clutch hits in key situations and played good defense in both center and left.”