April 20, 2004
The University of Notre Dame softball team (34-13) heads up I-80/90 this afternoon to face Northwestern (24-13) in Evanston, Ill, for the first time. The Irish and Wildcats have met eight times previously (with the series even at 4-4), but Notre Dame has never visited Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
Both teams are coming off conference doubleheader sweeps, with the Irish dispatching Providence 1-0 and 7-1 on Sunday, April 18, and Northwestern taking care of Ohio State with two 5-3 victories on Sunday.
Both teams also feature two conference players of the week. Notre Dame’s Megan Ciolli was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week for the first time this season on Monday, after leading Notre Dame to three victories last season with a .563 batting average. Ciolli finished the doubleheader vs. Providence 5-7 at the plate with one RBI and she also helped in the upset at #18/19 Nebraska earlier in the week with two hits. She shared the conference honor with Rutgers’ Nikki Childress.
Northwestern pitcher Courtnay Foster was named the Big Ten Pitcher of Week on Monday as well. She figured in four of Northwestern’s five victories last week and struck out 14 batters vs. Penn State. Foster is averaging 9.13 strikeouts per seven innings of work this season.
Notre Dame – Northwestern Series History:
Tuesday will mark the ninth and 10th meeting between the Irish and Wildcats … the series is tied 4-4, with Northwestern evening it up and spoiling Notre Dame’s home opener last season with 4-2 and 3-2 victories at Ivy Field … Notre Dame had won the previous four meeting in the series before last season’s two losses … Northwestern was ranked 22nd for last season’s meetings … Tuesday will mark Notre Dame’s first trip to Evanston, Ill.
Northwestern team analysis:
The Irish and Wildcats are two very similar teams, led by two strong pitching staffs … Northwestern has two hard throwing pitchers and has racked up 308 strikeouts as a staff in 2004 … Notre Dame will see both Courtnay Foster (1.59 ERA, 11-11, 184 Ks) and Eileen Canney (2.40 ERA< 13-2, 123 Ks) in the pitching circle … the Wildcat offense is keyed by Erin Mobley (.357, 10 SB) and Garland Cooper (.356, 25 RBI) … Northwestern boasts wins over #20 Arizona State (twice) and #8 Stanford this season … the Wildcats enter Tuesday’s games with on a season-high six-game win streak … both Notre Dame and Northwestern have been in and out of the Top 25 this season and have consistently received votes in both polls … Northwestern is in fourth place in the Big Ten Conference standings with a 7-5 record.
BIG EAST Conference update:
Notre Dame remains the only unbeaten team in BIG EAST Conference play this season with an 8-0 record … Villanova is the first place team in the league with a 9-3 record … the BIG EAST Conference maintains its standings via a point system, giving two points for a league win and one point for a league tie … using that system, the Irish are tied for second place with Virginia Tech (8-6) … the system also puts pressure on the Irish getting their games in, as Notre Dame (along with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech) usually fly to most of their conference match ups … any rainouts end up punishing a team in the standings if the games do not get made up … Notre Dame has a big weekend coming up, with doubleheaders at Villanova (Saturday) and Rutgers (Sunday).