NIU vs. UIC; just a battle

By Rob Bolton

This is the biggie.

No. 1 vs. No. 1.

Statistically speaking, these two teams are tied for first place; but, the percentage points give the Huskies the slim advantage.

On Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., the NIU softball team will attempt and take sole control of the Mid-Continent Conference race.

And its destination?


The Windy City bedbug has been tugging on the frill of NIU’s gown since the genesis of the season.

In fact, the Flames were looking down at the Huskies early in the year when UIC was ranked 18th in the nation on March 16. But, since, the Indigo & Flame has been oblivious, mentioned only as ‘also receiving votes.’

Not the Cardinal and Black.

Tuesday’s poll brought good news and satisfying news.

The Huskies remained as America’s No. 12 team but did not improve in the ranks for the first time in this campaign.

UIC (44-7 at press time) is drooling at the opportunity to take on a ranked team.

The Flames are in the midst of a three-day marathon of games. Loyola hosted them on Wednesday while the UIC hosts Notre Dame today at 3:30 p.m. Then, of course, NIU invades on Friday. And, as always, all games are doubleheaders.

It will be the second straight week that the Player of the Week faces the Pitcher of the Week.

NIU’s Ree Zenner earned the offensive/defensive category while UIC’s Jennifer Banas grabbed the hurler’s award.

Last week, when Zenner (Player) faced Kelly Peel (Pitcher from Green Bay), it was a draw. Zenner went 0 for 3 but scored a run and drove one in on a sacrifice hit. Peel took the loss in giving up 11 hits, seven runs (four earned) and striking out one.

All Banas did last week was toss a no-hitter against Mid-Con cellar-dweller Valparaiso, record a 2-hit blanking against Eastern Illinois and increased her consecutive scoreless innings streak to 27 1/3 innings.

Zenner went 8 for 15 (.533) at the plate with three triples, two doubles, six runs and six RBIs. She also stole home and extended her errorless streak to 31 straight games.

Banas dominates a pitching corps that leads the Mid-Con in ERA (1.15) and walks-to-strikeouts ratio (+2.68 K). The Flames’ hitting prowess shouldn’t be shunned either since they lead the conference in batting avg. (.328), homers (.42/game) and runs (5.5/game).

Sue North (.393, .517 slug%), Missy Klies (.384, 6 HR, 41 RBI, .549 slug%), Kerri Tanksley (.383, 34 R, 19 BB, 6 SB) and Sarah O’Malley (.371, 12 doubles, 3 HR, .531 slug%) head the charge for the deep Flame lineup that boasts seven players over the .310 mark (at least 89 at-bats).

UIC is 7-0 at home this year and are sure to remember the last time these two got together. NIU was a 3-1 winner in the loser’s bracket of the final North Star Conference Tournament.

The Huskies hold a 23-6 overall record against the Flames and look to that foundation on Friday.

^‘Quote to end all quotes: In Tuesday’s Game Two against the Fighting Irish whose infield is crushed white limestone with blue batter’s box and foul lines, Zenner reached first on a perfect bunt. By a pebble or two, it ended up staying in fair territory, triggering the following from head coach Dee Abrahamson, “That was a blue-line special.”


I haven’t picked against the Huskies (31-12, 9-1) all year. Nor do I start.

UIC has no chance as it loses the defensive war—2-1 & 4-2.

On Saturday, Valpo offers first chance in long time for Huskies to slaughter (and on the road)—14-0 & 6-0.

Then, on May 11, DePaul marks the last opportunity for fans to support the Huskies into the postseason at the Softball Complex. It will be very close. Don’t pick that week to stop biting your nails … Huskies 3-2 in both games.

And finally, is there any doubt? NIU—1993 Mid-Continent Conference Champions.