In the Big Ten Tournament's first semifinal game, the second-seeded Northwestern Wildcats will face off with the third-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes. During the Big Ten season's opening weekend, the Wildcats defeated Iowa twice, 11-1 and 2-0.
In the first game, Eileen Canney pitched a five-inning complete game, allowing only four hits and a single earned run. `Cat catcher Jamie Dotson highlighted the game for Northwestern going one-for-two with a run scored and four RBI, off of a grand slam. Designated player Kristen Amegin also showed well in the game, going three-for-three with a pair of RBI and a run scored. First baseman Garland Cooper finished the one-sided contest two-for-two with three RBI and three runs scored.
In the second game, Iowa pitcher Lisa Birocci returned to form, striking out six in her seven-inning complete game, however, the Hawkeye senior was bested by Northwestern's hurler, Courtnay Foster, who went seven full innings, allowing only a single hit and striking out 12. At the plate, Sheila McCorkle led the way for the Wildcats, going three-for-three with a run scored.
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 four shutouts this year.
Birocci's 1.14 ERA is the third best of regular starting pitchers, while she earned a conference best 26 wins. Birocci is third in the league in strikeouts with 238 in 226.2 innings pitched. She has thrown complete games in 25 of the 30 games in which she has started, which is the most in the Big Ten. Twelve of the seniors' complete games have been shutouts.
Arnold has had a successful junior year as well. With an ERA of 1.53 that ranks in the league's top 10, Arnold is fifth in the conference with 20 wins. Half of her 26 games started have been complete game efforts with 196 strikeouts, the sixth most in the Big Ten.
First team All-Big Ten honoree Mindy Heidgerken and second teamer Kylie Murray have been two of the most productive Hawks this year. Murray leads the team with a .359 batting average and is second on the team in RBI with 39. Heidgerken's three triples are a team high and her speed has aided her on the base paths with 21 steals on 22 attempts.
Freshman Emily Nichols broke the school's single season homerun record this year and finished the regular slate with 16. Playing both catcher and first base, Nichols has batted .315 with a team-best .711 slugging percentage.