No duels, just success in the circle (Women’s Softball)

Andrew Simon

Like most top teams, Northwestern can generate a lot of offense. But what distinguishes the Wildcats is the two-headed monster powering the club.

The dynamic duo of junior Eileen Canney and senior Courtnay Foster gives the Cats two pitchers who qualify as No. 1 starters and provides coach Kate Drohan with plenty of flexibility.

Drohan said she enjoys the ability to play the matchups and keep her starters fresh. Both hurlers likely will see time on the mound today, when NU travels to DeKalb, Ill., to take on Northern Illinois.

NU’s pitching situation makes the club somewhat unique in the sport, a fact it uses to its advantage.

“It’s very rare in softball to have two pitchers who get decent playing time,” Foster said. “Usually on a team, there’s just one powerhouse pitcher. But it’s nice to have someone backing you up. It definitely takes the pressure off a little.”

According to pitching coach Tori Nyberg, the only other team she’s seen with two pitchers the caliber of Canney and Foster was Washington, whom she pitched against while at Stanford from 2000-03. Nyberg believes like that club, which featured two All-American pitchers, the Cats are a step ahead.

“It’s a huge advantage because we don’t have to ride one pitcher all the time,” Nyberg said. “We have two fresh pitchers, and they’re both going to be strong for Regionals and the College World Series. And there will be days when one of them is slightly off. But when that happens, the other one will be on. They pick each other up.”

So far this season, there have been few occasions when either hurler hasn’t been on her game. The duo has pitched every inning for the Cats, compiling a 22-8 record, including nine shutouts, six one-hitters and a no-hitter. Canney has posted a 1.55 ERA and held opponents to a .157 average, while Foster holds an ERA of 2.01, with opponents hitting .175 against her.

While their results are similarly impressive, Canney and Foster have significantly different styles in the circle. Canney throws harder and prefers the drop ball, while Foster tends to use the rise ball more.

“It gives us a good contrast and shows the batter different speeds and different levels,” Foster said.

As well as Canney and Foster complement each other on the diamond, they perhaps work together best off of it, putting aside any potential hard feelings over playing time. The two live together and act as support systems for each other, according to Foster.

“Their relationship is remarkable,” Nyberg said. “They’re extremely close. They’re best friends. They approach everything as a joint effort and rely on one another to be successful. They’re not trying to out-do each other and they know how to help each other out, which is unusual. Usually on a pitching staff, there’s more competition. But I think (their relationship) is part of the season they’re so successful.”

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