NIU softball: Huskies head to Western Michigan for double dip

By Chris Loggins

Softball will head to Kalamazoo, Mich., this weekend for a two-game series against divisional opponent Western Michigan.

First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. The Huskies (19-15, 5-1 MAC) are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Broncos (12-17, 4-2 MAC) are 6-4 in their last 10.

With less than a month left in the regular season this weekend could be a preview of what could be a matchup in the MAC Tournament. The Broncos have been playing much better as of late, taking six of their last seven games and moving to third place in the MAC West. The Huskies currently stand atop the MAC West after winning three of their last four.

Ivy Schaaf will be a tough out for NIU, as she’s hitting .400 on the season with 10 doubles and 14 runs batted in. Jenny Rohn has also been red hot, hitting .382 with 10 doubles and 20 runs batted in.

For the Huskies, sophomore first baseman Kayti Grable will look to stay hot as she’s batting .446 with a team-leading eight home runs and team-leading 31 RBIs. She also has a .752 slugging percentage. Grable took a tough fall after an amazing catch this past weekend, but it looks as though she’ll be able to go for the upcoming series.

“Time will tell; we’ll see,” said head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “She’s a tough kid.”

The Huskies’ pitching staff will be led by senior Jessica Sturm and freshman Keegan Hayes, who have piled up nine and 10 wins, respectively. The Broncos’ pitching staff is led by Allyson Kus and Erin Binkowski, who have combined for a record of 8-12 this season.

A few players rested Wednesday against Loyola, which Sutcliffe said was a precautious move and was based on seeing her players a bit winded.

“It’s a lot of games; 56 is a lot of games,” Sutcliffe said. “When you’re trying to keep people fresh for the weekend sometimes you have to make some defensive switches.”

Though the Huskies have played well as of late, Sutcliffe is looking to see improvements after a tough extra-inning loss to Loyola on Wednesday.

“Our offense is still kind of rolling,” Sutcliffe said. “We’re doing a good job of putting a lot of runs up and helping our pitchers. We weren’t disciplined on the base paths or with our bunting.”