Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Potent Leadoff Hitters Lighting Up Scoreboard With Ease (Softball)

By Philip Rossman-ReichThe Daily Northwestern

When Purdue pitchers enter the pitcher’s circle to face No. 8 Northwestern today and Saturday, they will be facing a formidable task: Try to survive the first inning against the Wildcats’ leadoff hitters.

Strong performances from senior center fielder Katie Logan, sophomore shortstop Tammy Williams, senior first baseman Garland Cooper and freshman second baseman Nicole Pauly have allowed NU to set the tone early and put pressure on opponents for all seven innings.

Entering this weekend’s games against Purdue and Sunday’s doubleheader against Indiana, the leadoff hitters are batting a combined .400 – each player is hitting over .300 – with a .458 on-base percentage.

In other words, almost half the time these players come to bat, they are getting on base and producing opportunities to score runs.

“Coming out and getting on base and scoring early on lets the rest of our lineup know we’re hitting the ball well,” Williams said. “We can tell them what adjustments we think we need to make in the box (and what the opposing pitcher is) throwing. It’s really important to kind of just set that tone for our hitters and against the pitchers.”

Williams is on a 21-game hitting streak, the longest such streak since coach Kate Drohan took over six years ago.

Williams and Cooper were named finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award Wednesday. Cooper leads the Big Ten with 14 home runs – already tying the school’s single-season mark – and RBIs with 45.

But it has been the play of the Pauly, the cleanup hitter, which has really helped propel this leadoff group. Pauly has made teams pay for walking Cooper and has allowed the senior to be a dominant power hitter.

“Garland Cooper is a big offensive force and as many times as we can get her to see strikes, the better of we’ll be,” Drohan said. “Nicole Pauly has responded beautifully. Especially when Garland walks, she’s really come up with that big hit. So the coaches in the other dugout are forced to make some tough decisions.”

Pauly earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for batting .571 with 10 RBIs in her first Big Ten games last weekend. She is on a 13-game hitting streak and is second on the team with 33 RBIs, forcing opponents to pitch to Cooper.

While the individual stats are impressive, Drohan said the foursome’s ability to produce runs is more important.

The leadoff hitters have scored 130 of the team’s 210 runs – just more than 60 percent. They have 115 RBIs, almost 58 percent of the team’s total.

The Cats have outscored opponents 52-12 in the first inning. They have scored in the first inning in eight of the last nine games, scoring multiple runs in six of those games.

“It’s a different ball game when we score first,” Logan said. “They’re behind, so they have to be a little more conservative getting runs. I think that we get a lot of hits together and that’s awesome because we generate a lot of runs.”

Reach Philip Rossman-Reich at [email protected].

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Potent Leadoff Hitters Lighting Up Scoreboard With Ease (Softball)