Softball looks to continue streak at Western Illinois


Freshman Stephanie Wonders swings at bat on April 12 in the game against Central Michigan University.

By Matt Hopkinson

Hot on the heels of four consecutive victories, the softball team is getting ready for a midweek departure from conference play as it hosts Western Illinois at 4 p.m. today at Mary M. Bell Field.

Western Illinois (13-19) will come into DeKalb as the winner of three of its last five games, including a slaughter-inducing 10-1 victory in its last game.

The Huskies (17-26, 7-7 MAC) will look for their first victory in a weekday game since they started home play, as they have had three rainouts and two losses.

What NIU head coach Christina Sutcliffe is looking forward to is the speed the Fighting Leathernecks bring to the base paths and their batting approach.

This speed and approach not only allows the team to get a different look than in games past, but also allows it to get prepared for its opponents later in the week.

“I think Western Illinois is pretty similar to what we’re going to be facing on the weekend,” Sutcliffe said. “What’s good about it is they have some speed at the top of their lineup and we haven’t had that against us for a little bit so we will be able to work some different defenses and get accustomed to that going into the weekend.”

Western Illinois is led by two players at the top of its lineup that can get on base and effectively steal bases at a high rate. Sophomore Sammy Marshall and junior Briana Williams have combined for 48 steals in 53 attempts and have also scored 50 runs between them.

Marshall has grabbed the attention of Sutcliffe, as she has noted they have not faced as fast a player since the early parts of the season against the slew of non-conference opponents.

Marshall comes into the game batting .500 on the season and slugging .702 on the year. Sutcliffe believes the gameplan Western will try to implement will include a slap and speed approach that will necessitate a strong defensive effort from the left side of her defense.

“I think that’s the whole point of slappers at the top of the lineup with speed,” Sutcliffe said. “Just put the ball in play and put some pressure on the defense. It will be good work for our left side and we’ll be prepared for Akron, who has some similar athletes in their lineup.”

Despite Western’s overall record leaving much room for improvement and its sub .500 conference record indicating it hasn’t found a lot of success, Sutcliffe knows her team will take the game as seriously as any other opponent.

“We go into every team as prepared as we can, looking to win every single game that we can no matter who we’re playing or what their record is,” she said.