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Softball opens six-game homestand Wednesday

March 29, 2011

NIU Huskies softballThe Northern Illinois University softball team opens a six-game homestand Wednesday, March 30, when the Huskies welcome Valparaiso to Mary M. Bell Field for a doubleheader. First pitch of Game One is slated for 3 p.m. with the second game to follow.

Northern Illinois (10-12) returns home having played well of late, winning six of their last 10 and averaging 6.5 runs a game. Wednesday’s begins a key stretch of games for the Huskies, as NIU will play 17 of its next 24 games at home.

“It’s going to be nice to play on our home field and be in front of our home fans,” NIU head coach Lindsay Chouinard said about the home opener against Valparaiso. “We’re going to have to control our emotions and play the way we’re capable of and staying focused on ourselves. It would be nice to get a couple wins tomorrow and set the tone for how we’re going to play at home.”

Of those 17 home games, 12 are against Mid-American Conference foes.

NIU opens MAC play Friday with it plays host to Eastern Michigan in doubleheader action starting at 1 p.m. to. The Huskies then welcome Central Michigan to town Saturday and Sunday to close out the six-game stretch. Saturday’s game starts at 2 p.m., while first pitch for Sunday’s contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. Chouinard knows the importance of all conference games.

“They’re huge games,” she said. “Right now, Eastern [Michigan] is sitting at the top of our division and Central Michigan is right above us. They’re going to be great teams and provide us with a great challenge.”

Freshman Stephanie Tofft is one of six Huskies that will be making her MAC debut this week and she’s a big reason for the Huskies’ success offensively of late. The native of Lincoln, Calif. leads the team in eight categories including batting average (.441), RBIs (20) and hits (30). She earned MAC Player of the Week honors earlier this season and is riding a 12-game hitting streak.

Another pair of young players that have contributed early this season are sophomores Alexandra Wulbecker (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Hoffman Estates) and Amanda Sheppard (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest). They are second and third on the team in batting with Wulbecker averaging .346 and Sheppard hitting .333. Wulbecker is second on the team in RBIs with 13, while Sheppard is second on the squad with seven doubles.

Fans can follow the action of all six games live via Gametracker at