The NIU softball team will finish its early-season road swing this weekend as it travels to Michigan State to play seven games against four teams.
The Huskies, who played their first 19 games on the road, will take on Michigan State in a doubleheader today. Saturday, NIU will play a doubleheader against Central Michigan and a single game with Toledo. Sunday, the Huskies will close the road trip by taking on Toledo and Bowling Green in single games.
NIU coach Dee Abrahamson said she would be satisfied if her team, which has lost six out of its last seven games, would win five of its seven games this weekend.
Abrahamson added she does not know much about the Michigan State team, which last year finished second in the Big 10, except that it is a veteran squad. The Spartans have ten returning lettermen, including six seniors and two juniors.
Central Michigan, which is ranked 15th in the nation, is the toughest team NIU will face out of the four teams. Because CMU, along with Toledo and Bowling Green, is in the Mid-American Conference to which NIU formerly belonged, Abrahamson knows a lot about its squad.
“Central Michigan is a good hitting team,” she said. “They also have a senior pitcher who was All-MAC last year. If we play tough like we can, I think we could beat them.”
Toledo also has a strong pitcher in Tammy Johnston.
“She (Johnston) has been the mainstay of their team the last two years,” Abrahamson said. “They just have a really good pitcher in her with an average offense and an average defense.”
Bowling Green is probably the weakest team in the field. Abrahamson said if her team plays a solid game against BG, it should prevail.
Abrahamson said that one of her team’s main goals for the weekend is to revive the hot hitting which has left them the last couple of weeks. The team batting average has dropped to a season-low .285 after reaching a peak, seven games ago, of .315.
“We’re looking for more hits this weekend,” Abrahamson said. “We haven’t been as sharp at the end of the game as in the beginning.”
Center fielder Jill Justin still leads the team with a .473 average, while shortstop Amy Veld has been the most consistent run producer with 19 runs batted in.
Abrahamson also said her team’s fielding and pitching will have to improve if they are to go 5-2. She mentioned that a key player this weekend will be freshman pitcher Maria Leake.
“We need some good innings from Maria because we can’t rely on two arms to pitch seven games,” Abrahamson said.