The first game of the 2005 Big Ten Softball Tournament will place second-seeded Northwestern against the No. 7 seed Purdue. During the regular-season the `Cats defeated the Boilers twice, 9-0 and 7-0. In the first game, Northwestern's Eileen Canney threw a five-inning one-hitter, before the game was called. In the top of the fifth, with the `Cats already up 5-0, centerfielder Sheila McCorkle wrapped a bases-loaded triple to record a game-high three RBI.
In the second game, Northwestern pitcher Courtnay Foster threw a complete-game shutout, striking out nine and walking only one. In the fourth inning, sophomore Garland Cooper hit a two-run homer to highlight a four-run inning.
Cooper has been one of the most productive offensive performers in the league this year. She has started 51 games and hit a league-best .466. She also leads the Big Ten in both on-base percentage, with a robust .556, and slugging percentage, with an impressive .822. Her 45 RBI are second in the conference.
Freshman Stephanie Churchwell is also towards the top of many conference categories. Her .404 batting average is fifth on the season and her 47 runs scored tie her for third in the Big Ten.
The entire Northwestern lineup has contributed significantly through out the season with junior Jaime Dotson and senior Erin Mobley also having great runs. During the season, Mobley broke Northwestern's all-time total bases and runs scored records.
In the circle, Northwestern has had a pair of aces throughout the season. Foster leads the staff with a 1.24 earned run average and has struck out 219, while allowing only 58 walks. Her 18-6 record in 23 games started also features 17 complete games, seven of which were shutouts. When Foster is not pitching, the ball is generally in the hands of Eileen Canney. The sophomore has an ERA of 1.50 and has allowed only 111 hits in 168.1 innings. She has amassed a record of 18-7 and thrown 15 complete games, including 4 shutouts this year.
Purdue has had its share of impressive performances this year as well, highlighted by senior second baseman Andrea Hillsey. Her team best .374 batting average is 10th in the league and she ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 102 total bases on the year. She has driven in 32 runs and hit nine homeruns this year. A two-time Big Ten Player of the Week this season, Hillsey leads Purdue in seven offensive categories and has struck out only seven times in her 155 at bats this year.
Senior Shelli Messer has also had a productive final year in West Lafayette. Batting .309, Messer has recorded 27 runs and driven in 17 during the 2005 campaign. Sophomore DaQueta Johnson leads the team in RBI with 44. A Big Ten Player of the Week honoree, Johnson has a slugging percentage of .426, second best on the team.
Pitcher Diana LaRiva has been the ace for the Boilermaker team. With an earned run average of 2.17, the junior has compiled a record of 12-6 with seven complete games on the year. LaRiva was selected as the conference Pitcher of the Week three times during the 2005 season. She has struck out 149 batters and given up only 35 walks.
For the Boilermakers to advance past the Wildcats, LaRiva will have to neutralize the potent Northwestern lineup and Hillsey will need to come up big on offense.