Even mound masters need run support

Lily Leung

Even mound masters need run support

Freshman continues to impress, sophomore seeks offensive help

By Lily Leung

The Northwestern softball team’s “two-headed monster” has been schizophrenic ever since the Big Ten season began.

The “monster” — pitching duo Courtnay Foster and Eileen Canney — is coach Kate Drohan’s concoction, but the combination hasn’t been as effective as she anticipated this season.

“(Courtnay and Eileen) have two different styles of pitching,” Drohan said. “We’ve definitely missed defensive opportunities with Courtnay on the mound, but all pitchers slip, and (Courtnay) just didn’t have the right support while she was on the mound.”

Foster (18-11) lost her second consecutive game in a Sunday doubleheader against Minnesota, while Canney earned her seventh shutout of the season in the second game against the Golden Gophers at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

Both Drohan and Canney (11-2) said Foster still is a presence on the rubber but continually falls victim to a lack of run support. The sophomore pitcher struck out seven batters and allowed only two runs, but the Wildcats (19-13, 3-5 Big Ten) lost, 2-1. But Canney struck out 10 batters for the second consecutive time and allowed only three hits, winning the second contest against the Gophers, 4-0.

“Courtnay’s pitching great games, but she’s just not getting the right offensive support,” Canney said. “Sometimes games don’t go the right way, but we are in need of great offense; we’re still doing that.”

Foster said the lack of run support is her biggest disadvantage so far in what she called her “run-about luck” during conference games.

“I’m not throwing bad,” Foster said. “Pitchers can’t win games by themselves, but I have to work too by getting bigger pitches in.”

Drohan also said Foster has been matched against tougher pitchers than Canney, which explains her slipping record.

Minnesota’s Piper Marten, who took the ball against Foster on Sunday, led the Big Ten last year with 123 strikeouts. Canney faced Lyn Peyer, a less-experienced and -decorated pitcher, Drohan said.

“It makes a difference that Courtnay’s going against much better people,” Drohan said.

Foster said the team plans to experiment with different hitting strategies in practice in order to increase Foster’s effectiveness and give her the support she needs.

While the Cats will look to provide more runs for Foster, they hope Canney can maintain her current hot streak.

Canney got off to a rough start, giving up 11 runs in her first collegiate outing for the Cats at the Arizona State Triangular in Tempe, Ariz., in February. But she shut out two Big Ten teams, Wisconsin and Minnesota, this weekend alone. She has won her last four decisions and has given up only one run in her last 21 innings pitched.

“I feel confident on the mound,” Canney said. “I try to have the same mentality and physical state every time I’m on the mound. I try to throw within myself.”

But Canney said she would not have improved so much without Foster’s guidance. The freshman said Foster has helped her with her pitching and her attitude when she is in the circle.

“Courtnay has taught me a lot,” Canney said. “She gives me encouragement, and when I do something out, she corrects me.

“She and I are a team, and I still think we’re that two-headed monster.”