NU splits 4 games, upsets Stanford (softball)

Lily Leung

After enduring a shaky debut, freshman pitcher Eileen Canney turned to ace Courtnay Foster for advice.

Following the talk Canney overcame her nerves in two commanding victories over No. 8 Stanford and Boston College.

In two starts at the Palm Springs Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., this weekend, Canney recorded a shutout and allowed only four hits and two runs.

“I worked really hard to improve from the last two games,” Canney said. “I didn’t want another rocky game. I met my expectations but I want more.”

No. 29 Northwestern finished 2-2 at the tournament with wins over Stanford (4-2) and Boston College (8-0) and losses to No. 1 UCLA (5-1) and No. 7 Alabama (5-1). The team improved its overall record to 6-3.

Canney earned her first career shutout against Boston College. She surrendered just one hit and retired the first 13 Eagles hitters she faced. Coach Kate Drohan said she saw a marked improvement in Canney, who gave up 11 runs in her first outing for the Wildcats on Feb. 7 at the Arizona State Triangular in Tempe, Ariz.

Drohan said the Cats’ loss to UCLA on Saturday did not shake the team. The defending national champions will always be a challenge for the Cats, she said, especially with senior Keira Goerl on the mound. Goerl, a College World Series MVP and U.S. Olympic finalist, only allowed two NU batters to reach base Saturday. But Drohan said her players did well putting the ball into play.

Shortstop Eryn Manahan, who faced Goerl three times, scored the Cats’ lone run. She cut the Bruins’ lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning, but UCLA added a run in the last inning off Foster, who allowed seven hits.

“Keira (Goerl) was good, but our team put more pressure on her than she anticipated,” Manahan said. She was definitely hittable, but we just needed to work more as a team.”

Drohan said her team matched up best against rival Stanford. Sophomore third baseman Kristen Amegin’s home run in the sixth inning initiated the upset over Stanford. Amegin continued her streak, hitting another home run to give the Cats a 4-2 lead. The Cats picked up all four runs with two outs in the sixth inning.

Drohan said the victory against Stanford made a big statement for recruitment.

“We go for the same people because of our athletic and academic reputation,” Drohan said. “The girls competed hard. They proved that we could match up.”

NU players said they beat themselves in a 5-1 loss to Alabama on Friday. Five errors hurt Foster’s efforts. The sophomore pitcher, who dropped her first decision of the season, had not given up an earned run in 21 innings of work. But by the fifth inning the Cats found themselves down by four runs.

“We were not aggressive enough,” Manahan said. “We sat back and waited for something to happen when we should have been in control since the beginning.”

NU led 5-1 against Pacific on Sunday, with one out in the third inning, but officials cancelled the showdown because of heavy rain. The contest does not count for either team.

“The girls came out smacking balls and they had tons of hits,” Drohan said. “Last weekend was a very valuable step in the program. These are teams the kids want to play and matched well against.”