March 13, 2014
CHICAGO – The UIC softball team (2-11) prepares for its final tournament as it travels to Bloomington, Ind., this weekend to compete in the Hoosier Classic. The Flames are set to face Toledo, host Indiana (twice) and Michigan State, and will kick off competition on Friday against the Rockets at 10:30 a.m. CT and the Hoosiers at 12:45 p.m. at Andy Mohr Field.
UIC returns after nearly three weeks off from competition. Most recently, the Flames traveled to San Diego, Calif., for the San Diego Classic (Feb. 28 – March 2), but were unable to play a single game due to continuous rain and unsafe playing conditions.
"You can't predict the weather and we can't control it, so we were just trying to get in as many games in as possible," head coach Michelle Venturella said. "We even travelled out to the desert and tried to get a couple games there, but the weather just wasn't on our side in San Diego."
Through 13 games this season, senior Jacki Fletcher boasts a .514 batting average (19-for-37) to lead UIC and rank 12th in the nation, as fellow seniors Jenna Marsalli (.294) and Natalie Hernandez (.282) follow Fletcher with the top averages among players with 30 or more at-bats.
Sophomore Bridget Boyle holds the best ERA for the Flames with a 3.22 average in 37.0 innings pitched and is 1-3 this season in five starts while making nine appearances.
This weekend’s competition marks the third-consecutive trip to the Hoosier Classic for UIC, who has previously faced Toledo, Indiana and Michigan State, in addition to Central Michigan and North Dakota, at the three-day tournament.
"I love going down there, it's my alma mater," Venturella added. "The competition is always good. You have two Big Ten teams there, typically, and they are no different this year with Indiana and Michigan State. Then we have a chance to play Toledo, who was there last year, so we are somewhat familiar with the opposition."
Toledo (7-13) enters into the weekend after going 2-3 at the Under Armour Classic with wins over Boston University and Maine. Chandler Rice leads six Rockets hitting above .300 with a .396 average, while starters Jessica Lemieux (.375), Alyssa Smith (.359), Lani Ernst (.339) and Erinn Wright (.322) are also contributing to the hit total. On the mound, Emily Anderson has made 13 starts in 15 appearances while producing a 2.33 ERA and a 7-6 record. The Flames are 2-2 in the all-time series and won both of their games against Toledo last season at the Hoosier Classic.
Indiana (5-16-1) returns home to host its final tournament after winning its last three games against Weber State, Boise State and Valparaiso at the Spring Hill Suites Invitational. Natalie Lalich is averaging .353 this season with 12 hits, while Breanna Saucedo boasts 22 hits to lead the team and holds a .306 average. Pitching for the Hoosiers, Brooke Boetjer (4.83 ERA) has a 2-2 record, followed by Lora Olson (4.91 ERA) at 2-7 and Meaghan Murphy (7.00 ERA) at 1-7. Indiana holds the edge in the all-times series, as UIC is 5-11 after falling in its game at last year’s tournament.
Michigan State (6-14) is coming off a 1-3 performance at the Florida Atlantic Tournament, where it collected a win over Hofstra. McKinzie Freimuth and Kassidy Kujawa have contributed 14 hits apiece this season to lead the Spartans, while Freimuth is averaging .311 ahead of all players. In the circle, Valerie Kaff (3.68 ERA) and Kelly Smith (4.63 ERA) each have nine starts, with Kaff producing a 3-7 record and Smith going 2-5. The Flames’ game against Michigan State at the Hoosier Classic last season was cancelled, but the two teams played at the Littlewood Classic, where the Spartans picked up two wins.