NIU softball: Keegan Hayes makes immediate impact


By Chris Loggins

Softball pitcher Keegan Hayes (6-5) is off to a promising start in her freshman season, leading the Huskies to several big wins.

In 17 appearances, Hayes has pitched 68.2 innings and maintained a 2.24 ERA. Her hot start led to her earning MAC West Pitcher of the Week honors Tuesday.

Hayes, who hails from Naperville, said she has been dreaming of playing college softball since she was a child.

“I knew I wanted to play college softball before I even graduated middle school,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t picture myself not being on the field after high school.”

The Huskies return to action against the Illinois State Redbirds. 4 p.m. Wednesday in Normal.

Q: How much pressure is there to maintain great play like this consistently, especially as a freshman?

A: I don’t really feel pressure to pitch well throughout the entire season. It’s easier for me to take it one game at a time and continue improving and learning with each win and loss. As far as being a freshman goes, I just want to go out and prove my abilities. College ball hasn’t been an easy adjustment by any means, but my team has been and continues to be extremely supportive through my struggles and setbacks.

Q: What’s the mood around the team right now? You guys have been playing very well lately and there’s still half a season to go.

A: The team is on the rise and you can feel it. I think our chemistry on the field is clicking at the right time. We are all anticipating conference play and are definitely excited to play at home.

Q: How rewarding was it to win MAC West Pitcher of the Week? Were you surprised to get it?

A: I was not expecting to receive MAC West Pitcher of the Week at all. It’s an incredible honor. I think I owe a huge part of it to strong defense, though. The ball gets put in play a lot, and they continue to make clutch plays when we need outs.

Q: Coach [Christina] Sutcliffe has had very high praise for you. Has she been hard on you considering your success?

A: Coach Sut sets high expectations for every player. When I feel that I have done well, she will set the bar higher. Our team motto is based around the idea of never being satisfied. We emphasize that it is OK to be proud of our accomplishments, but we need to continue to make new goals and strive towards them in order to get better.

Q: Is it hard to be a leader around the team while playing so well but still being so young?

A: I don’t see age being a factor on the field. The girls have never treated me differently because I’m young. When it comes down to it, we are all just trying to win the same game.

Q: What are you looking forward to? How confident are you in the team’s potential?

A: I am looking forward to seeing our defense, hitting and pitching come together at once. Our team is extremely talented and I feel that we have yet to unleash our full potential. Once it clicks, I’m confident that we will pose as a major threat in the MAC.