The Purdue softball team is rolling into its rivalry series this weekend riding the high of stealing a victory on the road against Minnesota.
The 2-0 victory came off a suffocating pitching performance from freshman left-handed pitcher Savanah Henley.
Henley tossed a one-hitter and sealed the victory with 13 strikeouts, the sixth- most in program history, to give the Boilers (6-14) their first win over the Gophers since May 2014.
“I’ve always thought (Minnesota) was a good team and when I got the chance to pitch against them I wanted to make the most of my opportunity,” Henley said. “I knew I could do it, but to see it with my own eyes gives me more confidence in myself.”
Henley’s time on the mound, though short, has been productive. She leads the team with 28 strikeouts and a 2.26 ERA, the number of runs allowed per inning.
“She was just on,” head coach Boo De Oliveira said. “There’s no other way to put it sometimes; she was efficient and consistently hit her spots.”
Henley isn’t the only freshman embracing the challenge of major college softball. Freshman catcher Kiley Goff is working her way into the Boilermaker batting attack. Goff holds a streak of seven base hits in her last seven at-bats and hit her first home run against Minnesota last weekend.
Goff’s ability to get on base will open up big opportunities for Purdue’s star hitter to keep opposing pitchers on their heels.
“I would say up until now she’s been the baseball coach’s daughter,” De Oliveira said in reference to Purdue baseball coach Greg Goff. “But I think that very soon in the future it’ll flip to (Coach Goff) being the dad of the softball stud.”
Junior shortstop Rachel Becker has been not only one of the most efficient hitters for the Boilermakers, but in the entire Big Ten conference. Becker is hitting .435, fourth in the conference, and has scored a team-high 17 runs.
Becker’s swings are well known across the Big Ten, as she holds a leaderboard spot in seven different hitting categories.
“Becker is just a stud,” De Oliveira said. “There’s no other way to describe her on offense or defense. She’s a catalyst that sparks our offense every game.”
The Boilers will be facing a familiar opponent in the Indiana Hoosiers (8-12), and look forward to the rivalry matchup. Indiana is riding a three-game losing streak and holds the worst fielding defense in the conference, with a fielding percentage of .940 and 37 errors on the season.
That inconsistency accompanied by the middle-of-the-pack pitching attack will give Becker and the Boilers something to smile about.
“They’re a brand-new team to me,” Henley said. “I don’t put too much thought into what they’ve done, because to me, they’re just another team that I want to beat.”
The Hoosiers have a strong hitter of their own. Senior left fielder Gabbi Jenkins bats an average of .302 with a team-high 11 runs. With an on-base streak of 12 at-bats, she leads the Hoosier hitters with 16 stolen bases.
“IU has some pretty good playmakers,” De Oliveira said. “It’s hard to tell with stats sometimes because they can be misleading.”