Softball team 3rd at SIU tourney

By Jeff Kirik

A combination of timely hitting and improved pitching carried the NIU softball team to a third-place finish this weekend in the Southern Illinois Saluki Invitational.

The Huskies beat Ball State and Illinois State on Friday before losing to Evansville and grabbing a victory in the third-place contest against host SIU Saturday. The 3-1 weekend moved NIU’s season record to 7-5.

The two Friday wins were especially gratifying for the Huskies, said coach Dee Abrahamson. She said her team’s 9-1 win over Ball State meant a little more because the Cardinals are the Huskies’ former Mid-American Conference foes. Abrahamson added that the Huskies 5-4 victory over ISU was even sweeter because the Redbirds are ranked 16th in the nation.

NIU pounded out 13 hits against BSU, while sophomore pitcher Shari Edwards stopped the Cardinals on just three safeties.

Centerfielder Jill Justin, who entered the game hitting .541, and shortstop Amy Veld each had three hits in the win.

“We came out smoking,” Abrahamson said. “We like beating the old MAC teams. It was a key game because we wanted to start out on the right track.”

The Huskies cranked up their offense again against ISU, pounding out 10 hits. NIU grabbed a 2-0 first-inning lead and Beth Schrader limited a strong Redbird offensive lineup to four hits.

“Seven of our nine players had hits,” Abrahamson said. “Everybody contributed. We’d like to spread out our hits like that a little more often.”

“It was nice to beat somebody who’s ranked,” said assistant coach Donna Martin. “They were flat after their loss to Evansville, but we had a very good game.”

After the Huskies lost to Evansville, they went on to face SIU in the third-place game. NIU pulled out a 7-6 come-from-behind victory which left the Huskie coaches exhausted.

elped by the clutch hitting of Justin, Veld and Susie Conway, the Huskies rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to pull out the win. Freshman Maria Leake pitched the first 2uw innings before Schrader came on to finish the game and earn her second win of the tournament.

Abrahamson said the 2-0 loss to Evansville was the low point of the weekend.

“We knew we would have to play well against Evansville and couldn’t take them lightly,” she said. “The Evansville pitcher was very slow. We had a hard time adjusting. We hit a lot of pop flies.”

Martin said the Evansville defensive game plan of playing deep in the outfield contributed to the Huskies getting only four hits.

“Late in the game we were smacking the ball around,” she said. “We hit a few balls that were caught or went for doubles, which on our field would have been home runs.”