Rain threatens softball team’s home opener

By Jeff Kirik

It’s not football season, but one of the NIU athletic teams is having a homecoming.

The NIU softball team will play its first home game of the season today as it takes on Bradley in a 2 p.m. double-header. After playing 26 consecutive away games, the team is ready to play in its back yard, assistant coach Donna Martin said.

“It’s going to be great,” she said. “We can play in front of our own fans. We don’t have to travel and don’t have to worry about missing classes either.”

“We’re really looking forward to getting a chance to play on our own field, that is if we do get the chance,” Head Coach Dee Abrahamson said.

ain saturated Huskie Field by Monday afternoon, and Abrahamson said she was concerned about whether the game would be played. The coaches were looking for alternative fields in the area Monday in case of poor weather.

Martin said being at home for the first time also could cause some problems, such as lack of concentration.

“It can be a little distracting when all your friends are there (at the game) and you’re coming in right from class,” she said. “You don’t have as much mental time to prepare for the game when you’re at home either.”

Bradley brings a 13-16 record into today’s action and is coming off a third-place finish at Western Illinois’ Westerwinds Classic. The Braves are third in the Gateway Conference with a 4-2 league mark. They compiled a 2-2 record in the weekend tournament which featured an eight-inning no-hitter by ace Beth Hawkins-Boniface against Eastern Michigan.

NIU escaped with a 2-0 win when it faced Bradley during the fall season. Huskie pitcher Shari Edwards was the star of the game as she tossed a no-hitter of her own.

“That game was very uncharacteristic of Bradley,” Martin said. “A year ago they were a very strong hitting team with a lot of power. I think we caught them by surprise. We had a good pitching performance, but we caught them on a bad offensive day.”

Abrahamson said the performance of Hawkins-Boniface, 4-1, will be a key in the double-header. The Brave pitching star recently had a son, but by her recent performance it is obvious her pitching effectiveness has not been slowed.

The Huskies are coming off a 4-3 weekend road trip, at which Abrahamson saw some improved play. She said if her team is to beat Bradley, the improvement will have to continue.

“We need to play as good defensively as we did this weekend,” Abrahamson said. “We need to keep hitting, too. We hit well in every game over the weekend except against Bowling Green (two hits).”

Even though they hit well over the weekend, the Huskie team batting average has been falling since its twelfth game. Martin said she and Abrahamson are not bothered by the trend.

“I don’t see it as too much of a concern. We’re playing better competition, plus wear-n-tear sets in after you’ve played so many games,” she said.