NIU softball notebook

By Jeff Kirik.

Today’s games against Bradley will be the first NIU home games of the season.

Last year, Huskies were 11-7 before their home debut, in which they lost a doubleheader to Illinois State. They finished last season with a 23-19 overall record and a 10-8 Mid American Conference slate. However, NIU’s home field was not much of an advantage as the Huskies went 3-7 at home and 20-12 on the road.

Sophomore center fielder Jill Justin leads the NIU softball team in every offensive category except runs batted in and sacrifices. She has 40 hits in 78 at-bats for a .513 batting average and also has scored 29 runs. Justin also leads the Huskies with 67 total bases, 14 doubles, five triples, seven stolen bases, 11 bases on balls and an on-base percentage of .588. At this pace, she would break almost every NIU offensive record, many of which she set last year.

Justin, who is also in a four-way tie for the team lead with one home run, sprained her ankle in a game Friday against Michigan State. She went on to play the rest of the weekend and piled up 13 hits in 21 at-bats for a .619 average. Justin has been bothered by the ankle but will play today.

Shortstop Amy Veld has a team-leading 20 RBIs this season but also leads the team in another category. Veld has made 87 plate appearances this season and has yet to strike out. Assistant coach Donna Martin said Veld’s good eye and ability to foul off tough pitches has been the key factor in that statistic.

On the field, Sue Kause has been the key NIU player. Kause, a junior first baseman, has had 172 putouts and nine assists while only committing one error. That gives her a team-best .994 fielding percentage. Second baseman Laura Peterson is second on the squad with two errors and a .983 average.

The softball team, as a whole, has seen its fielding percentage rise in recent games. In seven games over the weekend the team committed six errors. That was an improvement over the 12 errors the Huskies made two weeks earlier in only five games at Illinois State’s Redbird Tournament.

The Huskie team batting average has sunk to a season-low .277. The team hit a peak after their 12th game of the spring with a .315 average. Justin, Veld and Kause have accounted for nearly half of the Huskie hits with 93 of the team’s 189 safeties.

Heidi Hutchison has been the top freshman on the softball team so far this season. Through 26 games Hutchison has had 21 hits in 70 at-bats for a .300 average. She also has been versatile in the field, splitting time between a number of positions, including catcher and left field.

Bradley mound ace, Beth Hawkins-Boniface will start one game of today’s twin bill. The senior’s weekend no-hitter against Eastern Michigan was the 13th of her career.