Illinois State renews old rivalry

By Rob Bolton

The Cubs have the Cardinals.

The Bears have the Packers.

The NIU Huskies have the Redbirds.

Though Illinois State is neither a conference (Missouri Valley) nor regional (Midwest) opponent, they are the Huskies’ biggest rival.

Dating back to 1956-‘57, ISU has a 46-33-1 lead and bragging rights, for now, over NIU.

And, today at 3 p.m., the battle continues on McCormick Field in Normal, Illinois.

Last year, NIU went 2-0-1 against its intrastate nemesis in winning a 7-3 contest at the Redbird Classic and hosting a 2-1 win and a 2-2 tie later in the season at home.

So, recently, the Huskies haven’t experienced much sadness versus the 12-20 Redbirds.

“It’s a big rivalry,” Huskie-in-charge Dee Abrahamson explained. “Illinois State is probably the school we most often recruit against. We’ve each lost good recruits to the other over time. The players from both teams tend to really get up for the game because they are recruited similarly.”

For the record, ISU has won three of its last four games and six of its last eleven. But, other notes of success are far and few between.

Lynn Piscoran leads the team with a .288 batting average with only one extra-base hit.

Kim Pace is tops on the club in homers (3), RBIs (13), total bases (37), walks (15) and hits (tie-24).

No one else with more than 48 at-bats has a batting average over .239. As a team, the Redbirds’ .230 mark is substandard to their opponent’s .252.

On the mound, Jodi Burch’s 1.05 earned run average claims No. 1 and she boasts the only plus-.500 record (5-2) on the staff.

Dawn Fowler (4-8, 1.81 ERA) is the workhorse out of the bullpen. Her 73 2/3 innings is tops among the six pitchers on the roster. She also leads the rest with 32 strikeouts and nine complete games (in 12 starts).

A sweep for the Huskies would give them another great roll into the next two weeks before the next rankings.

The new poll comes out today and things are looking very tasty for NIU.

Since the last poll (March 30), the No. 18 (No. 3 in the Mideast Region) Huskies have gone 11-1.

Mideast leader and No. 10 Iowa (23-6) also went 11-1 while No. 2 Michigan (18-8) stumbled a bit in going 4-2 over the fortnight.

Both the Hawkeyes’ and Huskies’ losses were to each other while the Wolverines’ duo of defeats came at Northwestern, which lost to NIU on both April 3 and 4.

Michigan was ranked 15th in the country on March 30 and now, is in jeopardy of not only dropping in the national ranks but the regionals as well.

In waiting to dethrone the Gold and Blue?

The Cardinal and Black.

“I think we’ve done our part,” Abrahamson proudly stated. “It’s awfully hard to ask a team to go undefeated over a two-week period of time.”

Yet another perk was the fact that Toledo’s head coach, Cheryl Sprangel, is on the regional committee. That translates into a 5-1 record for the Huskies in front of regional committee members over the last two weeks. (Sprangel saw the Huskies sweep her Rockets and the Wildcats in last week’s Northwestern trip. Also, Iowa’s Paula Jantz made the trip with the Hawkeyes into the Huskie Softball Complex one week ago and watched the two split a doubleheader.) All opportunities to succeed while those all-too-important committee members are in attendance are cherished greatly.

‘Mary Borem’s knee, which took a foul tip in Friday’s opener at Cleveland State, won’t keep her out of action tomorrow. She was the designated hitter Sunday at Wright State while Denise Bloy filled the catching role.

Abrahamson reviewed the logic in the following, “If she would have played anywhere besides catcher, she probably could have played. But we kept her bat in the lineup.”