Softball starts conference play with series against Bowling Green

By Keelen Holcomb

Softball (19-7) will head to Ohio this weekend as it opens conference play with a three-game series against fifth place Bowling Green State University.

The Huskies have caught fire as of late, winning their last 11 games dating back to a March 11 win over Loyola University Chicago. They are up to 5-4 on the road and 14-3 at neutral locations.

The team played well in the Blue/Gold Challenge last week in Greensboro, N.C. They played in games against Delaware State University, Loyola, Campebell University and North Carolina State University. NIU put together three shutouts in five games and outscored opponents 39-11.

“We always talk about making sure two sides of the ball are working,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “Whether it’s pitching and hitting or defense and hitting, two of those three need to be working. So this weekend they were definitely able to figure that out and our offense carried us for sure.”

Senior catcher Emily Naegele has continued to lead the way for the Huskies, coming up with her third MAC West Player of the Week of the season on Monday. She has earned the award three times in five weeks and has led an explosive Huskies’ offense so far this season.

“I think there a lot of people that help me, especially since every day isn’t my best day,” Naegele said. “So I think that our offense is the key to success for us right now.”

Naegele is already up to 10 home runs on the year, tying for third on the single-season record list for NIU. She only needs two more to take sole possession of second place. The senior has achieved the feat in only 26 games, putting her on pace to break the single-season record of 15, held by teammate junior infielder Kayti Grable.

The Huskies still have yet to play a home game — they won’t return to Mary M. Bell field until April 1 when they begin series against Kent State University and Ball State University.

The first pitch of the series is set for 2 p.m. Friday in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Huskies’ winning streak will leap to 12 games with a victory.