Wildcats dominate weekend homestand (Softball)

Andrew Simon

Coming off their first two Big Ten losses of the season, the No. 17 Wildcats served notice they are still one of the conference’s top teams by cruising to three wins over the weekend against Indiana and Purdue at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

Led by junior pitcher Eileen Canney’s two shutouts and hot hitting from junior first baseman Garland Cooper and freshman shortstop Tammy Williams, NU (29-10, 9-2 Big Ten) outscored its opponents 23-1 in the three games. After defeating Indiana (20-20-1, 3-8) on both Friday and Saturday, the Cats topped Purdue (26-24, 4-7) Sunday before the second game of the scheduled doubleheader was rained out.

NU bounced back nicely from its disappointing series at Ohio State and improved to 8-0 at home this season.

“It says we’re not just going to shut down because we lost a couple of games,” Williams said. “We’re always going to go out and play to the best of our abilities.”

In her two starts Friday and Sunday, Canney looked almost un-hittable.

She pitched 13 shutout innings, surrendering just five hits and one walk while striking out 26 to improve to 14-5.

“I’ve kind of turned into (a strikeout pitcher),” Canney said. “It didn’t used to be like that but things changed. It’s just about having better pitch selection and movement.”

Canney’s sterling performances surrounded senior Courtnay Foster’s gem Saturday against the Hoosiers, when she gave up just one run on three hits and whiffed 14 to move to 15-5 on the season.

“We throw differently but after games a lot of times we’ll talk about what we thought about the batters,” Canney said of her and Foster. “We give each other a lot of feedback and we have this sort of friendly competition going to try and outdo each other.”

The NU offense was also clicking on all cylinders, rapping out 30 hits behind a new batting order and some aggressive base running.

After the offense struggled against the Buckeyes, coach Kate Drohan shook up the lineup starting with last Tuesday’s contest against Illinois-Chicago. Junior leftfielder Katie Logan, who is second on the team in batting, moved from second to the leadoff hole. Williams, leading the team in both batting and homers, dropped into the third spot ahead of Cooper.

In the two games against the Hoosiers, Logan set the table well by going five for eight, and Williams and Cooper provided the muscle, going nine for 14 with three tape-measure home runs and nine RBIs.

“(We changed the lineup) to generate more offense,” Drohan said. “We wanted to get more runners on base for Tammy to drive in, and we wanted to get her and Garland hitting back-to-back in the order.”

Against Indiana, NU started off slowly with the bat, but broke free beginning the second time through the lineup, scoring four times in the fourth inning of both contests.

“After seeing a pitcher once, you know how she pitches. You know what pitches to look for and which ones to lay off,” Williams said. “As we go through the order we talk to each other a lot and tell each other what the pitcher’s throwing.”

Williams was also right in the middle of NU’s relentless base running, notching two of the Cats’ seven stolen bases.

She also scored a run after colliding with Indiana’s catcher on a close play at the plate Friday.

“We talk about (aggressive base running) a lot,” Drohan said. “We’re getting all areas of our game going. After we lost those two games to Ohio State, we’ve had great focus. We’re utilizing our athleticism to be aggressive and create runs.”

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