Mid-Con play starts in Ohio

By Rob Bolton

The second season.

Today and tomorrow mark the continuation of conference play for the NIU softball team.

Though the Huskies are 0-1 (3-1 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay on March 27), the ‘official’ conference play begins now for the hometown ladies.

Cleveland State is the first stop of the two-day journey for the Huskies (19-9). Today’s doubleheader is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The Vikings are 5-13 (0-6 in Mid-Con) under second-year head coach Tom McLauchlin while losing six of their last seven and eight of their last 10 games. But, in seven of the 13 defeats, they lost by two runs or less.

Leading the Viking ship are freshman Angela Gugov and junior Heidi Marshall.

Gugov leads the team with a .370 batting average, 20 hits, 12 runs and 30 total bases.

Marshall, who may sound familiar, is indeed the same woman who played under Loretta Hummeldorf’s basketball squad for the past three seasons. Though Marshall’s hardwood stats didn’t improve over one year (11.2 points per game and 3.0 rebounds per contest in 1991-92 to 7.7 and 2.7 in 92-93), her importance is certainly recognized on the dirt and grass.

She leads the Vikings in seven offensive categories (HR, RBI doubles, walks, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and stolen bases), while starting in all 18 games this season at shortstop.

Her dominance is necessary if the young Vikings (nine freshmen) are to have a chance at the talented and deep Huskies.

“They have a lot of youth and all that youth brings energy, so we’re expecting some pretty scrappy games from both programs,” NIU assistant coach Donna Martin alluded.

Martin touched on Wright State, the opponent for the doubleheader Saturday at noon. The Lady Raiders have a new coach, are battling back from a 9-31 season and create an opportunity for the Huskies to jump to the conference leaderboard in a hurry.

“It would be natural to think that there would be kind of a letdown from playing Iowa to two younger teams,” Martin pinpointed. “But, the team knows that this is conference and it means a lot to them. One of (the team’s) goals is to win the conference and they can’t win the conference if they don’t play well this weekend.

“I think we have to distance ourselves from them, but what’s most important is that we have to win. We need to push across our first run and then start worrying about stacking (the runs) up after that. It doesn’t do us any good to be ranked in the country if, in the end, we don’t win the conference.”