NIU softball: Kayti Grable avoids sophomore slump


Softball first baseman Kayti Grable awaits a pitch in the game against the North Dakota State Bison on March 19 at Mary M. Bell Field. Grable leads the Huskies in batting average (.418) and on-base percentage (.507), and ranks third in fielding percentage (.983).

By Chris Loggins

Softball has birthed an emerging player in sophomore first baseman Kayti Grable.

Grable has continued and improved her impactful play after a freshman year in which she won MAC Freshman of the Year and received both All-MAC and MAC All-Freshman awards.

In her freshman season, Grable became an instant success, leading the team in a total of seven categories. She hit for .363 with a team-leading nine home runs, 37 RBIs and 26 walks. She also ranked in the top 10 in seven MAC categories.

Now 42 games into her sophomore year, Grable’s numbers have vastly improved. She’s batting .418 with nine home runs, 35 RBIs, 23 walks, and only seven strikeouts.

“It’s tough,” Grable said of her recent success. “You just have to keep working hard and keep improving. That’s what I think my main goal was: to keep getting better and keep staying consistent.”

Coaches and players have been vocal about the play of Grable, lauding her importance to the team and how big she has been for the success of the team.

“Kayti and [Emily] Naegele both are getting it done,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “What’s nice is they kind of have a 1-2 punch, and they don’t really have to be on all the time. We’re starting to get some hitters around them to pick up, as well. When you have to carry the load … there’s more pressure, but when you don’t have to you can just go ahead and swing.”

Grable downplayed the praise her coach and teammates have given her, noting the importance of having everyone in the lineup on track.

“I’m only one person in a lineup,” Grable said. “We have a lot of other girls that are very capable of keeping our lineup, and they’ve proved they can win without me hitting, so it’s really nice to have support behind me. They’re doing a great job.”

Naegele has also been vocal about her and Grable’s relationship on and off the field, a view that Grable has echoed herself.

“Most of the time we’re talking about what a pitcher’s throwing us and how we can get better on each at-bat,” Grable said. “We have a good relationship, and we’re able to tell each other what we see and what we think that we can do better, that kind of stuff.”

The team has been able to find a nice balance of pitching and hitting, with Grable and Naegele hitting nice strides as the season prepares to conclude. Early on in the season, the offense took a while to come around while the pitching did very well. Towards the middle of the season, it was a bit of the opposite.

“It’s really nice to know that if our offense is lacking that our pitching can pick us up, and the other way around,” Grable said. “It’s just nice to know that we’re never out of any game because we have one asset of our game that can pick either up.”

The Huskies are third in the MAC West at 7-5 with nine games remaining before the MAC Tournament. Grable is planning for the best possible outcome.

“I think just playing each and every game … and to keep making the most out of every game is the most important thing I think we have to do,” Grable said.