IU Gears for Two Ranked Teams

    Go Hoosiers!
    Go Hoosiers!

    Go Hoosiers!
    BLOOMINGTON, Ind -- The Indiana softball team returns to conference play with a two-game home series (April 15-16) against No. 16/17 Northwestern. Friday's contest gets underway at 3 p.m., while Saturday's game is set to start at noon. IU then welcomes No. 1/1 Michigan in a noon doubleheader on Sunday, April 17.

    Northwestern currently holds a No. 17 ranking in the ESPN/USA Softball Poll and a No. 16 mark in the NFCA/USA Today Poll. The Wildcats are 26-9 on the season and sit atop the Big Ten Conference with an 8-0 record. NU was set to play a doubleheader with Illinois-Chicago this past Tuesday, April 12, but rain forced that to be cancelled.

    NU is hitting .294 as a team, fourth in the conference. Sophomore first baseman Garland Cooper leads the squad with a .432 average, second in the Big Ten. She has also recorded six home runs, 27 RBI, 25 runs scored and 21 walks. Freshman Stephanie Churchwell is second on the Wildcats with a .415 batting average. She leads the team with 32 runs scored and has plated six home runs and 27 RBI. She is also a threat on the basepaths with an 11-for-13 mark on the season. Junior Jamie Dotson is third in the conference with 40 RBI, while classmate Kristen Amegin tops the team in home runs with nine.

    Northwestern backs up its hitting with good pitching. The staff has a team ERA of 1.45, third in the Big Ten. Two pitchers are the primary reason for that mark. Junior Courtnay Foster (12-4, 1.29 ERA)has appeared in a team-high 23 games, while sophomore Eilen Canney (14-4, 1.45) leads the team with 18 starts. Foster has tossed 108 1/3 innings giving up just 52 hits, while striking out 156 and walking 40. The right-hander has completed 13 of her 16 starts. Canney has notched 115 2/3 innings allowing 80 hits and 35 walks with 110 punchouts.

    Indiana trails the all-time series 48-to-35, although the Hoosiers did take a 5-4 decision over the Wildcats last season.

    Michigan dons the No 1 ranking in both the ESPN/USA Softball and NFCA/USA Today poll. The Wolverines enter the weekend with a 40-3 record, 7-1 in league action. Michigan's only setback in Big Ten play was a 5-2 loss against Iowa on April 1. Michigan started the year with a loss to then-No. 17 Baylor, but then reeled off a program- best 32-game winning streak.

    The Wolverines sport one of the most prolific offenses in the country, averaging six runs a game. They hold a team batting average of .319 and have hit 64 home runs, tops in the conference. Senior shortstop Jessica Merchant leads the squad in batting average (.412), home runs (15), RBI (45), slugging percentage (.817) and is tied for first in runs scored (42). Freshman first baseman Samantha Findlay is second on the team with 12 long balls and 42 RBI while hitting at a .342 clip. Junior second baseman Tiffany Haas is hitting .400 with 42 runs scored, six home runs and 20 RBI. She also has a team-high eight stolen bases on the season.

    The U-M pitching staff is just as impressive with a team ERA of 0.76. Junior Jennie Ritter (17-0, 0.88 ERA) leads the team in innings pitched with 127 2/3. She has appeared in 22 games with 18 starts. The right-hander has given up just 62 hits and 16 walks with 188 strikeouts. Sophomore Lorilyn Wilson (18-2, 0.60) has seen action in 23 games with 14 starts. In 105 1/3 innings, she has let up 40 hits and 20 walks with 147 strikeouts.

    Michigan has won 20 in a row over Indiana and owns a 54-26 advantage in the series history. Last season, the Cream and Crimson battled the Wolverines, but fell 3-2 and 4-2 in Ann Arbor.




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