Error-prone Huskies place 5th in tourney

By Jeff Kirik

This weekend’s Redbird Tournament at Illinois State left NIU softball coach Dee Abrahamson with several questions about her team’s performance.

“The people out there playing (against DePaul) in the Huskie uniforms weren’t us,” Abrahamson said after her team finished fifth in the 12-team tournament.

Poor fielding at critical moments and the inability to drive in clutch runs led the Huskies to a weekend record of 1-4. In all, NIU committed 12 errors, most of which led directly to their opponents’ runs.

Abrahamson said going into the tournament her team’s endurance would be tested by playing three games in one day for the first time this season. Her team failed the test by losing all three of the opening-day contests.

“I thought we would be better prepared to play all three games,” Abrahamson said. “Maybe we were saving it (the team’s energy) because we played better against Illinois State than we did against DePaul. DePaul was a low point but we made some adjustments and played better the rest of the tournament.”

The Huskies opened the tournament by dropping a 1-0 decision to DePaul, their future North Star Conference opponent. The only run of the game came on NIU mistakes. The Blue Demons scored an unearned run on a wild pitch in the second inning after the runner had reached base on a throwing error.

NIU had a number of scoring opportunities but each time the Blue Demons defense and pitching stiffened to stop the threat.

Indiana State was next in line for NIU, but the Sycamores picked up where DePaul left off. NIU had a 4-0 lead going into the last two innings but Indiana State rallied for a 5-4 win.

“We gave away two runs (with poor fielding),” Abrahamson said. “It was very disappointing to lose it after having the big lead, but we did play well up until the last two innings.”

In the third game of the day Illinois State claimed revenge for a 5-4 loss to NIU in last week’s Southern Illinois Saluki Tournament by beating the Huskies 2-0.

Again, both runs came on NIU errors. However, Abrahamson said the game pleased her in one way.

“Shari (Edwards) pitched a very good game,” she said. “She only gave up five hits, and the two runs certainly weren’t her fault.”

ISU’s pitching was a fraction better, though, as the Huskies could gather only four hits off Redbird ace Lori Vogel.

The lone NIU win came Saturday morning as the Huskies’ bats exploded for 10 hits in a 7-0 win over the College of St. Francis. Junior shortstop Amy Veld drove in four of the Huskie runs while sophomore pitcher Beth Schrader hurled a four-hit shutout.

“Amy came up with some clutch hitting in that game. We made some good use out of the hits we got,” Abrahamson said.

The tournament came to an abrupt end for NIU in the next game as Southern Illinois eliminated the Huskies in 5-4 contest.

“I really thought we were going to break out offensively against SIU,” Abrahamson said. “Both teams had a lot of (scoring) chances. We were in it the whole way, but we left a lot of people on base again and it hurt us.”

SIU ran out to an early 3-0 lead, but on the strength of a Lynn Lacey three-run double, NIU tied the game at four and sent it into extra innings. However, the Salukis pulled out the victory with a run on four singles in the bottom of the eighth to eliminate the Huskies.