Softball Hosts Northern Illinois in Final Home Game of 2008
Junior left fielder Jessie Buker
Junior left fielder Jessie Buker

April 28, 2008

 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-26) at ILLINOIS STATE (25-18) - NORMAL, ILL.
 Date  Tuesday, April 29 - 6 p.m.
 Location  Normal, Ill. | Redbird Softball Complex
 Radio None
 Live Video  Live Video on Redbird All-Access
 Live Stats  GoRedbirds.com / GameTracker
 Game Info  Illinois State Game Notes (PDF) 

Riding a five-game winning streak, which includes a key Missouri Valley Conference series sweep last weekend of then-third-place Drake, the Illinois State softball team (25-18 overall, 15-6 MVC) will play host to Northern Illinois (12-26, 6-10 Mid-American Conference) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Redbird Softball Complex in the Redbirds' final regular-season home game of the season. The game is a makeup of ISU's originally-scheduled home-opener against the Huskies earlier this season (March 11).

The Redbirds are coming off of one of their most successful stretches of games all season, as they went 5-1 last weekend against two of The Valley's top teams - MVC-front runner Creighton and Drake. Illinois State split its abbreviated two-game Valley set with Creighton April 21, as the Redbirds lost the first game, 3-2, before winning the series finale, 9-0, in six innings. Following a 10-2 drubbing of Indiana State Wednesday, Illinois State then won three-straight games against Drake last weekend (8-0 and 8-3 Saturday; 5-4 Sunday).

"We have had a lot of big hits lately, especially in the Drake series last weekend," said Illinois State head coach Melinda Fischer. "Both Kara (Nelson) and Casey (Gorrell) had big hits in the series finale Sunday, and we got key hits throughout our lineup during the weekend.

"We have one more conference series (at Northern Iowa May 3-4), and we need to finish strong there, as there are still a lot of teams playing to get into the (State Farm) MVC Tournament (May 8-10 in Carbondale, Ill.), as well as teams, like us, that are playing for certain seeds in the tournament. Tuesday night's game (against Northern Illinois) will help us prepare for Northern Iowa this weekend."

After finishing 22-28 overall last season, which included a 10-2 record in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Northern Illinois has struggled this season to build any sort of momentum in the wins column. The Huskies currently stand 14-games-under-.500 (12-26 overall) and are coming off of three-straight losses last weekend to MAC members Ohio and Akron.

Much of the Huskies' struggles this season can be blamed on their lack of hitting, as they own a .208 team batting average, which is 61 points lower than their opponents' batting average (.269). Northern Illinois has been outscored, 88-157, this season, while it has managed just 72 RBI and only 32 extra-base hits.

Sophomore Kate Greenough is NIU's top returning pitcher after she posted a 15-13 mark in her freshman campaign with a 2.99 ERA and 109 strikeouts. Greenough is 4-10 this season with a team-best 4.04 ERA. As a staff, NIU pitchers have a combined 4.30 team ERA and have already allowed 117 earned runs, compared to just 67 earned runs given up by opposing pitchers. Opponents are hitting a robust .269 this season off of NIU pitchers.

Illinois State leads the all-time series against Northern Illinois, 44-27-1, including a commanding 8-2 record over the last 10 games of the series. The Redbirds own a six-game winning streak against the Huskies, dating back to a 4-0 shutout of NIU April 17, 2002.