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Red and White ready for road stand against Broncos and Huskies

By Jordan Rinard
On April 10, 2014

The Miami University softball team, winner of five of its last seven takes on a pair of Mid-American Conference West Division foes Western Michigan University and Northern Illinois University this weekend in road matchups.

The RedHawks (16-17, 4-2 MAC) are 2-0 in away conference games this season and are sitting in second place in the MAC East Division standings behind Ohio University (19-15, 4-2 MAC).

"We're playing some good teams this weekend," head coach Clarisa Crowell said. "Last season, we split Western here, and we swept Northern Illinois but then lost to them in the MAC Tournament. Against Western Michigan, we're looking to pick up two wins. Our pitchers have to do their job, our offense has to keep going and our defense needs to step up. NIU will be a tough game and a big game; it's our first night game of the season so we're looking forward to playing under the lights. Our pitchers need to hold down their offense because they're going to play hard. We just need to play well and play with energy, intensity and passion."

Western Michigan (11-23, 2-4 MAC) has been struggling as of late, dropping four of its last six games and its last three to MAC teams. Sophomore outfielder Melissa Palmer leads the offense for the Broncos with a .355 batting average and the second-most hits in the conference with 39. Sophomore pitcher Allyson Kus has been effective on the mound with a 3.68 ERA and has accounted for 70 of the team's 96 strikeouts this season.

Northern Illinois (15-16, 3-3 MAC) is rolling as it has won four straight games, beating the University of North Dakota and Western Michigan. The Huskies have been efficient on offense this season, as they are second in the MAC with a .310 batting average and seven players recording averages of .300 or higher. Junior pitcher Jessica Sturm leads the pitching staff with a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts.

Miami has had some strong performances recently with senior catcher Kayla Ledbetter being named MAC East Division Player of the Week after hitting .556, slugging .778 and recording six RBIs along with a home run last weekend. Also playing well is sophomore first baseman/pitcher Jenna Modic, who recorded three of her four home runs this season over the weekend. Junior outfielder Bree Lipscomb is currently third in the conference with eight home runs to go with her .646 slugging percentage.

However, the pitching staff needs to improve its consistency as it has a 3.31 ERA while allowing a .271 batting average by its opponents. The defense also had its share of struggles as it has committed the fifth-most errors in the MAC with 42.

"We're looking forward to this weekend," junior third baseman Remy Edwards said. "Our offense has been hitting hot, so we're having normal reps in practice so we can keep the momentum going. Defensively, we have to work on keeping our intensity up, limiting our mistakes and just keeping our confidence up. We had some outstanding performances from our pitchers so we just need to stay on the same page and keep our team chemistry and energy high."

The RedHawks hit the road Friday as they square off against Western Michigan in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and will head west to take on Northern Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

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