Softball: Northwestern needs sweep of Purdue to finish .500 in regular season


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Kristen Wood delivers the ball to the plate. The senior pitcher gave up 4 runs in her last start Saturday against Wisconsin but only 1 was earned.

Marty Johnson, Reporter


Northwestern’s objective in its final series of the season against Purdue this weekend is simple: sweep.

The Wildcats (22-25, 12-8 Big Ten) need to win all three against the Boilermakers (27-24, 8-12) to finish the regular season at .500, a mark that they will need to even be considered for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, NU could also finish the regular season under .500 and win enough games in the Big Ten Tournament next week to gain eligibility.

“(We) learn from the past but keep moving forward,” senior shortstop Andrea Filler said. “We have to keep our eyes on the games in front of us and how we’re going to beat Purdue and hopefully get the sweep.”

At first glance, the Boilermakers seem like low-hanging fruit for the Cats. Purdue has lost four of its last five games as it dropped series to Ohio State and Nebraska. The team is last in the Big Ten with 328 hits, a batting average of .247, an on-base percentage of .320 and has struck out a conference-leading 277 times.

But although the Boilermakers’ bats are meek, their pitching is not.

The team is third in the Big Ten with an ERA of 3.00, second in strikeouts with 329, and fourth in opponent’s batting average — conceding an average of .245. Purdue’s pitching prowess is largely in part to senior Lilly Fecho (18-11, 1.89 ERA), who the Cats will most likely have to face multiple times over the weekend.

Fecho has been a workhorse for the Boilermakers this year, striking out 205 batters in 200 innings pitched, with 22 complete games and five shutouts.

Against Fecho, batters this season are hitting a meager .228. She’ll pose a challenge for a Cats team that has a stout batting average of .284.

“Fecho will be tough, and it’s about wearing her down and not trying to do too much with the pitch,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Defensively, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

That being said, the Cats have played against Fecho and the Boilermakers the past couple of seasons. The Cats have won the last 10 meetings between the two teams, with Purdue’s last win coming April 18, 2009.

Most recently, when the Cats faced off against Purdue in the quarterfinals of last year’s Big Ten Tournament, NU was able to squeak out a 3-0 victory. In that game, Fecho went up against the Cats’ own standout pitcher Kristen Wood.

Although Fecho struck out 10 in six innings pitched, she got tagged for 2 runs in the first inning thanks to a Filler single and an Amy Letourneau double. The 2 runs were more than enough support for Wood who went the distance in the game, surrendering only three hits and striking out six in the process. The Cats will need more of the same from the three seniors this weekend.

“I want us to play good softball, to focus pitch to pitch,” Drohan said. “I want us to have the balance of good focus and good aggressiveness and I think that’s what we have to get back to.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @rick_and_Marty