New Northern Illinois University softball coach Christina Sutcliffe has made it clear she intends to recruit locally.
Add another yes to her list.
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Burlington Central junior catcher/infielder Bekah Harnish, one of the top hitters in the area last season, has verbally committed to play for the Huskies when she graduates high school.
"I love what coach Sutcliffe is doing there," said Harnish of the new NIU coach, an assistant at Miami of Ohio the past seven years.
"It looks like she's really improving the program. She's got some good talent coming in and it's something I want to be a part of. It's close to home and I feel comfortable close to home and not too far away."
Harnish, who carries a 4.0 GPA and is taking the ACT Saturday, had a breakout sophomore year in helping the Rockets to a 28-9 season and a regional championship. She hit .471 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI. She had 15 doubles, a .835 slugging percentage and a .511 on-base percentage. She only struck out 9 times in 92 at-bats.
"What I've seen is that she's a high-character athlete," said Burlington Central Hall of Fame coach and longtime teacher Wade Maisto, who begins his second stint in charge of the program this spring. "She gets good grades and she's a good teammate. I watched some of her fall games and I know that as a junior she's going to be a leader on my team. She's a player who the kids on the team respect. I look forward to having her the next two years. How nice is it to have a player of that caliber?"
Harnish plays for the Wasco Diamonds travel program, where her coach is Burlington Central assistant Bill Morrow.
"Since I was 11 I wanted to play in college and coach Morrow has helped me a lot," said Harnish, who said she might study kinesiology. "It's really exciting. It's like a dream come true."
Harnish also considered Ohio University and Bowling Green, and now that her decision is made she's looking forward to softball, and just softball.
"It's been stressful," she said of the recruiting process. "Now that it's over I can relax and just go out and play."
At NIU, Harnish will join St. Edward senior Kali Kossakowski and Grayslake North senior Jordyn Bowen, who both recently signed with the Huskies. Kaneland graduate Delani Vest and Lake Zurich grad Stephanie Wonders are also on the NIU roster.
The Huskies haven't had a winning season since 2003, when they were 23-21-1. Under former coach Lindsay Chouinard, NIU was 19-33 overall last season and 3-8 in the MAC.[