Virtual twins square off in softball doubleheader

By Jeff Kirik

Two teams with similar records and similar styles of play will clash today when the NIU softball team takes on Western Illinois in an afternoon doubleheader at Huskie Field.

Both the 14-14 Huskies and the 17-17 Westerwinds will attempt to move their records over the .500 mark when the first contest begins at 2:30 p.m. However, the records are not the only parallelism that can be drawn between the two squads.

“I saw NIU play at Illinois State (Redbird Tournament),” Western coach Kathy Veroni said. “They have a good hitting team and a good fielding team. They’re a lot like us.”

NIU Coach Dee Abrahamson agreed with Veroni that the two teams are almost twins of each other.

“They’re like us because they have some power and some smaller, quicker-type players who have the ability to get on base, run and score a lot,” she said. “Typically they are a good hitting team. They don’t have a dominant pitcher, but they have a very good pitching staff.”

Each team also has one dominant offensive player in its lineup. The Huskies look to center fielder Jill Justin and her .536 average for much of their run production. The Westerwinds rely on Lisa DaRocha, a catcher who is hitting .394, as the base of their offense.

On the mound, both teams feature three pitchers, including a staff ace. Beth Schrader has been NIU’s most consistent hurler with a 9-6 record and a 1.68 earned run average. Meanwhile, Brenda Heyl has been WIU’s ace. The junior has used her 0.96 ERA to establish a 12-7 record.

“Brenda’s had, I think, an outstanding year,” Veroni said. “She has refined her rise ball and her drop ball and combined them well with her off-speed stuff. (She has) both power and finesse.”

The two squads also feature strong defensive teams with identical .954 fielding percentages.

NIU and WIU have not met since 1982 and were rained out in a scheduled game last fall.

“I think it’s going to come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes,” Veroni said.

The Huskies are coming off a performance where they could not make a mistake. NIU defeated Loyola 10-0 in both games of a Thursday doubleheader. However, Abrahamson admitted the Westerwinds will be much tougher than Loyola.

“We didn’t really do anything wrong but I think we’re going to have to do more things right,” Abrahamson said, adding that since neither game against the Ramblers was close, there was no pressure on her team. “Western is a good team. We’re going to have to hit at the right times and score at the right times to beat them. Against Loyola, we didn’t have to do that.”