SIU trip chills Huskies

By Tom Clegg

It looks like the NIU softball team is a fair-weather bunch.

Coach Dee Abrahamson’s squad dropped three straight decisions in the chilly Carbondale air over the weekend before rallying for a 3-1 win over Western Illinois Saturday afternoon. The Huskies’ came into the Southern Illinois tournament having posted a season-opening 10-2 record in the warmth of Florida.

Abrahamson took the bad weekend in stride and was philosophical about her team’s 11-5 record.

“We really haven’t set any goals for how many games we don’t want to lose,” she said. “We knew we were going to lose more than five games this season.”

After dropping back-to-back 5-4 decisions Friday to Evansville and SIU, the Huskies lost 3-1 to Ball State Saturday before salvaging the weekend with their defeat of WIU, which entered the tournament ranked fourth in the Midwest. Junior pitcher Beth Schrader earned the lone victory as she improved her record to 6-3.

“Beth pitched a good game,” Abrahamson said. “That helped us. If you’re only going to win one game, the one to win is against ranked people.”

Schrader surrendered three hits and a first-inning run in going the distance for the eighth time in eight starts this season. Lynn Lacy drew her second start behind the plate as the Huskies’ regular catcher, Pat Faletti, played right field.

For three innings against WIU, it looked as though NIU might return to DeKalb 0-for-Carbondale. But junior All-everything Jill Justin tied the score 1-1 in the top of the fourth. Her one-out double scored freshman Julie Sexton from second base after Sexton led off with a walk and was advanced to second by Faletti’s sacrifice bunt.

NIU broke the game open in the sixth when Amy Veld’s single to centerfield was booted, allowing Sue Alexander to score from first base. Alexander was pinch-running for Justin, who had drawn a walk.

Sophomore Lisa Gilfoy singled Veld to third and Lacy’s double scored Veld with the third and final NIU run. The Huskies nearly made it a big inning, but Laura Peterson lined out to the WIU second baseman with two outs and the bases loaded.

Schrader held her opponents scoreless the last two innings and, for the first time all weekend, NIU played an errorless game. Errors in the Huskies’ first two games contributed to their failures.

Following Saturday’s win, Abrahamson reflected about the Huskies’ troubles on Friday.

“Yesterday we played 12 good innings, but (we played) two bad innings that hurt us.”

In their loss to Evansville, NIU committed three errors as they squandered a three-run lead. EU tallied five runs in the fifth as Shari Edwards fell victim to a porous Huskie defense. Edwards’ record fell to 1-2.

In Friday’s second game, Schrader suffered her third loss of the year when SIU, which had lost to the Huskies in Florida, struck for five runs in the top of the seventh. NIU had entered the final inning with a 4-0 lead.

Sophomore Maria Leake took the loss in Saturday’s first game. Leake’s record dropped to 4-1 after giving up three runs in the third to Ball State.

The Huskies play their first home games of the season Tuesday at 1 p.m. when they host Iowa in a double-header.