#9 Purdue vs. #8 Northwestern
Thursday, May 11 / 11 a.m. ET
Alumni Field / Ann Arbor, Michigan
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Boilermakers (20-35, 9-14 B1G) are prepared to take on the eighth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats (24-28, 10-13 B1G) in game one of the Big Ten Tournament at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Purdue is making its fifth-consecutive conference tournament appearance, entering the tournament as the nine seed after its sweep of Nebraska.
Purdue's sweep of the Huskers has the Boilermakers heading into postseason play with momentum on its side as Katie Johnson turned in the best three-game series of her career wearing the black and gold while five of her teammates posted batting averages north of .400 on the weekend.
Johnson registered two complete-game victories, a 2.42 earned run average and six strikeouts over the course of 17.1 innings of work. Of her 17.1 innings she retired the Huskers in order 11 times, including a stretch in game three in which she set down 15 of the 16 batters she faced.
Offensively, Purdue's other two seniors have led the way at the plate as Kristin Hoppman and Lexi Valone were key contributors in the three victories over the weekend. Hoppman finished the Nebraska series five-for-11, earning a .455 batting average that led to three runs batted in and a run scored. Valone led the Boilermakers with five RBI on the weekend thanks to four hits in nine at-bats, giving her a .444 batting average in the series.
Their success against the Huskers is just a sample of what has been trending throughout conference play. Valone has hit .412 with eight hits in 19 at-bats, six RBI, a run scored, two doubles and a home run in her last seven games. In fact, the Lemont, Illinois, native began to swing a hot bat in the series opener at Northwestern in which she crushed her first career home run. Hoppman has been steady in the two hole for the Boilermakers, posting a .310 batting average against the Big Ten including 22 hits, three doubles, a triple, and a home run in 71 at-bats complemented by eight runs batted in and nine runs scored.
Maya Hughes and Alexa Binckes are also coming off a big weekend at the plate as Hughes accounted for seven of Purdue's 16 runs scored and Binckes led all Boilermakers in hits. Hughes used five hits in 12 at-bats to earn a .417 batting average with six runs scored and an RBI. Binckes finished with a .667 batting average as she was six-for-nine with a pair of doubles to drive in three runs while scoring one of her own.
Purdue's biggest threat offensively awaits in the three spot for the Boilermakers as Mallory Baker has set career-best numbers at the plate in every category. Hitting .351 on the season and .344 in conference play, Baker has driven in 28 runs and has crossed the plate 29 times in 2017. Oh her 54 hits in 154 at-bats, she has accumulated 10 doubles, a triple and a home run in order to fuel a .448 slugging percentage.
The winner of the contest will advance to face Minnesota on Friday, May 12 at 11 a.m. ET. The Gophers earned a first-round bye as the tournament's No. 1 seed.