Softball set to open 2012 season this weekend


Northern Star File Photo

By Eli Gehn and Brian Belford

NIU softball will get its 2012 season under way in Hammond, La. Friday.

The Huskies will play five games this weekend in the Southern Louisiana Tournament against Southern University and Nicholls State. NIU will play Tennessee-Martin and Troy Saturday as well as Southeastern Louisiana Sunday.

Pitching was thin for the Huskies last season, but coach Lindsay Chouinard said the team will be better off heading into its opening weekend.

“Pitching was an issue for us last year,” Chouinard said. “We had a lot of injuries, and having a full staff of pitchers is going to help us out a ton and a little more depth than we had last year.”

The Huskies will be without their leading pitcher, Morgan Bittner. She led the team with 10 wins, 104 strikeouts and 140 innings pitched.

With a lot of youth coming in, senior outfielder Dani Parrish said the underclassmen won’t have a problem handling some pressure.

“We’re bringing in a lot of freshmen talent,” Parrish said. “New freshmen pitchers will have to come in and step up, but they’re doing a good job of it.”

Parrish had a huge increase in her overall play last season from the previous two years. She hit .331 in 47 games. Despite the success from a year ago, Parrish knows there’s always room for improvement.

“For myself, I want to learn how to hit in different situations, depending on where they need me in the lineup,” Parrish said.

Sophomore Stephanie Tofft returns from her astounding 2011 campaign in which she averaged a team-high .434 batting average in 53 games. She compiled an NIU record 36-game hitting streak, shattering the old record that stood at 15 games. Topping that previous season is a major goal for Tofft.

“I have to do as good or better than I did last year as far as batting average,” Tofft said. “I have to field 100 times better than last year. Other than that, just to help my team win the MAC.”

Good pitching and defense will be the key goal for the Huskies this season. Chouinard said the team’s successful defense and pitching will have to be flawless in order to compete for a MAC title.

“We’re focused on pitching well and defending the ball,” Chouinard said. “Obviously, everybody works on hitting and people love to hit; that’s why they play softball. But in order to win a championship, we need to be able to pitch, we need to be able to defend, so that’s been our focus.”