NIU softball: ‘Sassiness’ fuels Huskies’ Jessica Sturm

By Chris Loggins

Softball senior pitcher Jessica Sturm has gained numerous accolades while at NIU, but she’s looking to end her softball career with something she doesn’t have: a MAC Championship.

In four years at NIU, Sturm has piled up 44 wins (fifth most in program history), garnered second and first team All-MAC selections and won MAC West Pitcher of the Week four times, most recently on Tuesday.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ve accomplished so much, but I could not have done it without my teammates,” Sturm said. “The one main goal I plan to accomplish is being MAC Champions at the end of the season.”

To her teammates and coaches, Sturm’s one of the most respected players, with praise coming from head coach Christina Sutcliffe and freshman pitcher Keegan Hayes.

“She’s done an awesome job with [helping] the younger pitchers,” Sutcliffe said. “She’s really taking on that role of being the mother [hen] of the team.”

Hayes said Sturm has been a “great mentor” to her as she adapts to college softball.

“She’s definitely helped me in the sense that I really struggled in the beginning,” Hayes said. “She always told me, ‘Hey, I went through the same thing.’ She’s been supportive and a great role model towards me.”


Hailing from Wichita, Kan., Sturm knew early on that softball would take her far.

“When I was 7 years old I told my dad I wanted to play softball,” Sturm said. “Without any hesitation he signed me up to play in a rec league and from there I started playing competitively, traveling every weekend. Once I was in high school, every summer I traveled the entire summer until I came to college.”

A senior now, Sturm said it’s natural for younger players to look up to her, especially on a team that has eight freshmen.

“I absolutely love it,” Sturm said. “I love seeing the success they have on the field. When the freshmen do struggle, being a mentor is a big role, but I know how to handle it because I can honestly say I’ve been there before. Softball can be a game of failure, especially when you never acknowledge your success. So, being there for the freshmen, especially the pitchers, I try to talk them through everything to keep them positive.”

Sturm and Hayes have made a solid pitching rotation this year with a combined 15-12 record. Sturm said working off of each other has led to much of their success.

“It’s great working with Keegan,” Sturm said. “She’s always positive about situations and works hard in practice. I always know she will get the job done when she’s in the circle. I would say we work so well together because she has a lot of off-speed pitches and throws more up and down, where I work more side to side. It’s definitely a different view for batters that catches them off guard at the plate.”

Sturm and Hayes each won MAC West Pitcher of the Week in March, helping lead the team on a three-game winning streak.

Sturm credits the turnaround to the excitement of beginning conference play, in which the Huskies are 2-0.

“I think that starting conference has really got us pumped up,” Sturm said. “We all know we have the potential to win the conference, and it’s great to see all of us coming together as one with the same goal. We make each other work harder every day knowing that we’re working for a conference title.”


Sturm credits her teammates and coaches with bringing her the highlights of her NIU career.

“You really cherish every relationship and memory because we all have things in common,” Sturm said.

Although Sturm is respected, she said she can be a bit much to handle at times.

“I have a lot of sassiness that may sometimes get me in trouble with Coach Sut,” Sturm said. “I consider myself a diva.”

Sutcliffe echoed Sturm, but put a positive spin on the player’s sassiness.

“Her sass is what makes her such a great pitcher,” Sutcliffe said. “There’s times where she needs to channel it a little bit better towards the opponent rather than internalizing it within herself, but sometimes on Jess’ sassiest days she’s had her best performances.”

Seeing many different teams in her time playing softball, Sturm commends this year’s team for how well it has been able to get along throughout the grind of the season.

“This season seems to be different,” Sturm said. “We all get along so great. We never get tired of each other. From myself and my teammates you can expect NIU to keep winning and reaching our goal towards a conference title.”

Even with Sturm’s decorated college career, she doesn’t see softball in her future.

“I plan to work with girls in my free time and give pitching lessons, but once I am done playing softball here at Northern I do not think I will continue to play softball,” Sturm said. “It’s been a great four years and I wouldn’t change any of it.”