Is Courtnay the Answer?

The <b>Wildcats</b> have ridden the talented arm of <b>Courtnay Foster</b> into the Big 10 Tournament.<br><br> Do the <b>Cats</b> have enough pitching to win <b>Four</b> in a row?<br><br> <b>Four</b> out of <b>Five ???? !</b>

Now Here's Something that Coach Roy really understands...Women's Softball*...
The Wildcat Women of the Diamond (32-15 11-9 Big 10) are heading to Iowa City to take on a team they haven't beaten this year, the Michigan State Spartans. Forget that the 'Cats played them in a deep freeze [in East Lansing in March when a cold front dropped the temperatures below freezing], that weekend in Michigan was the low point of Wildcats'  March.

Not only that, but NU Softball seems to like Iowa City. They shut out the #1 Seed Iowa Hawkeyes twice [3-0/2-0] there just two weeks ago, on their way to earning a berth in the Big 10 Tournament, although beating Illinois twice last weekend didn't hurt the cause.In fact the Lady Cats are riding a 6 game winning streak going into the tournament, and have allowed only 2 runs during that streak.

The last four wins have been thrown by Freshman Courtnay Foster (16-8 1.32 ERA) [Tucson, AZ] who has become the Ace of Coach Kate Drohan's staff in recent weeks,allowing only 2 runs in those games. Waiting in the bullpen is Senior Brie Brown (7-1 2.79} and Senior Lauren Schwendimann (9-6 1.98), two other pitchers with tournament experience.

It also doesn't hurt that the Cats also have Three fielders (and their first 3 batters in the lineup) batting over .300. OF Erin Mobley (.358), OF Brett Nakabayashi (.348) and 2B Carri Leto (.301) add some fireworks to the lineup. [Several other 'Cats bat over .250] Overall the Wildcats team batting average is a respectible .274 vs .194 for their opponents.

So here's the bottom line:
The Wildcats lost their first Big 10 game of the season, Courtnay Foster's First Big 10 Start, to MSU on a first inning 3 run home run - one bad pitch won the game. Do you really think she's going to allow the Spartan's another chance? Not the way she's pitched lately.

To be sure, Sparty is hot right now. They knocked off #1 seed and #13 nationally ranked Michigan last weekend so they're pretty pumped up, and they're aching for another shot at the cross state rivals later in the day [the winner of the morning game gets Michigan in the early evening], but I really like the Wildcats in this one. [and maybe in the 2nd game too.

Here's why:
1. Courtnay Foster - has something to prove. She was embarassed in her first Big 10 game, its payback time.
2. Defense - The Cats have a nationally recognized 2nd baseman in Carri Leto. Hard throwing leads to balls hit by right handers to the right side. Carri makes those plays. If I read my stats right, our outfielders play perfectly.
3. Fast Starts - The top of our lineup is on base one third of the time - how many time does the lead-off walk/hit score? Look it up.
4. We out-hit our opponents by 80 points and we have a better ERA.
5. These 'Cats have been snubbed by the NCAA too many times lately. Coach Kate deserves to get the Wildcats to the next level this year. They've beaten too many top 10 teams lately to sit around Evanston next month. If they won't pick the Cats - the Cats will pick themselves.!
One more thing. What's great about Softball is that Pitchers go on hot streaks, and you can ride those streaks for entire tournaments. If Courtnay is truly on a hot streak, the Cats could be carrying off the trophy on Sunday.

*After all, he spends a lot of time every year running the press box for the Eastern Regional Girl's Softball Tournament, maybe they're a little younger, but the field and the ball are about the same size.
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