May 18, 2005
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - When the dust settled on the field for the final time in 2005, the Boilermaker softball team had achieved many program milestones. The team had fought its way back into the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since the 2000 season after posting a 10-10 record, the best conference mark for Purdue since the 1997 campaign.
The Boilermakers topped a Top 25 team for the first time since the 2001 season with a 2-1 win over then No. 24 Iowa on April 9. The win over the Hawkeyes marked the first Purdue victory over Iowa since the 2000 season. Purdue beat Ohio State for the first time since 2001 and swept instate rival Indiana for the first time in three years.
Several single game and career records fell during the season in which the Boilermakers registered their seventh straight 30-win season, posting a 34-24-1 record. The team also ranked 23rd in the nation in fielding percentage with a .970 effort.
Now, at season's end, the time has come to step back and reflect on some of the players who helped the team achieve those feats.
Senior Andrea Hillsey wrapped up her Purdue career as the most highly decorated player in program history and her contributions to this year's squad have not gone unnoticed. Hillsey was named as the team's MVP, Co-Best Offensive Player, Co-Best Defensive Player and the Make-It-Happen Award honoree, while also garnering the team's Red Mackey Award nomination.
After missing half of her junior season due to a knee injury, the White Lake, Mich., native returned to form, leading the team in batting average, doubles, home runs and runs scored. The second team All-Big Ten honoree boasted a .373 batting average, including 15 doubles, nine home runs and 44 runs. Hillsey ranked among the top of the Big Ten in batting average, runs scored, doubles, slugging percentage, walks and on-base percentage this season. She was also listed as the 13th toughest player in the country to strikeout with only seven strikeouts in 158 at-bats, while ranking 15th in walks per game (0.68) with 40 in 59 games. Defensively, Hillsey posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, making good on 232 of her defensive opportunities.
The two-time captain and member of numerous all-tournament teams wraps up her career with her name among the Purdue top five in 10 single season and 10 career statistical categories. The 2005 Purdue Big Ten Medal of Honor winner is the single-season record holder in batting average, runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and walks. Hillsey owns the career records for batting average, on-base percentage, runs and walks. A movement and sport science major and three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Andrea will graduate in December.
A member of each Purdue athletic team is nominated by their teammates for the Red Mackey Award. The criteria for nomination include competitive spirit, a positive attitude, loyalty, self-discipline, hard work for the best interest of the team and a willingness to help others. Each spring, a committee of letterwinners selects three of the nominees to receive the scholarship award for postgraduate study or completion of their undergraduate degrees. The Mackey Award, established in 1971 in honor of late Purdue athletics director Guy "Red" Mackey, recognizes athletes who exemplify the overall success of the university's intercollegiate athletic programs.
Senior Shelli Messer was named Co-Offensive Player of the Year along with Hillsey. The third baseman saved her best for last having posted a .305 batting average including 27 runs, 17 RBI and nine doubles in her final season. Messer accounted for seven game-winning runs and five game-winning RBI this year, while also stealing seven bases. In conference play, the second-team All-Big Ten honoree owned a .328 average, including nine runs and six RBI. The Greenfield, Ind., native recorded 101 defensive assists in 2005, moving her into fourth place on the career top five list in that category. She was honored with all-tournament honors twice this season, garnering accolades at the Louisiana Classic and Buzz Classic tournaments. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, a public relations and communications major, Shelli is set to graduate in December.
Sophomore catcher Erika Peterson shared Co-Best Defensive Player of the Year accolades with Hillsey. Peterson started all 57 of the team's games at catcher, throwing out 37 percent of the runners attempting to steal against her, a mark which ranked first among Big Ten backstops. The Irvine, Calif., native made good on 99 percent of her defensive opportunities, including 368 putouts, which ranked fifth among conference players. Her putout tally also moved her into fifth place on the career top five list in the category with 724. Offensively, Peterson, commonly known as Petey, boasted a .241 batting average including three home runs, 16 RBI and 11 runs scored. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree drove in the game-winning RBI on three occasions, walked 15 times and was hit by a pitch seven times, the fourth most of any Big Ten player. Peterson laid down nine sacrifice hits, ranking her eighth in the Big Ten in that category, while also stealing two bases. In conference play, Peterson batted .298 with five RBI and five runs scored.
Junior Diana LaRiva and sophomore Brooke Baker shared the Most Outstanding Pitcher honors.
LaRiva posted a 12-6 record and a 2.17 ERA this season, while striking out 149 batters in 135 innings of work. The Tustin, Calif., native threw seven complete games including four shutouts in 32 appearances. She tossed a perfect game, no-hitter against UMKC in her first appearance of the season. The junior ranked seventh in the Big Ten in batters struck out looking with 49. She struck out five or more batters on 17 occasions, including 10 or more Ks three times. LaRiva garnered Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors three times during the year, becoming one of only two three time honors in Purdue softball history. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree was named to the all-tournament team at the Hilton Classic and Wolfpack Challenge. LaRiva moved into the career top five in wins (5th with 40), shutouts (4th with 13), innings pitched (5th with 468.2) and strikeouts (2nd with 507).
Baker posted a 15-16 record in 2005, including 15 complete games, four shutouts and three saves. The Schererville, Ind., native pitched 192 innings, striking out 124 batters. Baker struck out five or more batters on 11 occasions, and threw two one-hitters, against Akron on March 18 and against Illinois on April 10. She ranked fourth in the Big Ten in number of appearances with 42, while also standing seventh in the conference in innings pitched with 192 and fifth in saves with three. Baker was named to the all-tournament team at the Wolfpack Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her 15 complete game efforts moved her career total to 35, which is good for fifth place on the Purdue career list.
The final award bestowed in 2005 belonged to junior first baseman Becky Stone, who was named as the team's Most Improved Player.
Stone saw action in 36 games, starting 29, 28 at first base and one at designated player. The Belleville, Ill., native took over at first base midseason when sophomore Katie Fortune went down with a hamstring injury. Stone did not miss a beat in the transition to starter, making good on 99 percent of her defensive opportunities, while also posting her best offensive season. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree owned a .242 batting average including four doubles, five RBI and six runs. She drove in the game-winning run with an RBI single against Indiana and accounted for the game-winning run against Wisconsin. Stone recorded three perfect days at the plate, including a 2-for-2 performance with one RBI and two runs against Illinois. She led the team in sacrifice hits with 11, a number which ranks her fifth among Big Ten players. Stone also drew five walks and was hit by a pitch three times.
The 2005 season also marked the final days as a player for senior outfielder Katie Absher. Throughout Katie's four years in a Purdue uniform, she filled a variety of roles. She spent most of her time as a pinch runner her freshman season and has moved up the ranks, making her way to full-time starting centerfielder as a senior. In 2004, Absher's rise from a walk-on role garnered her the Ben Korschott Perseverence Award, which is given to a walk-on who has earned scholarship dollars and made a significant contribution to the team's success. Affectionately referred to as "Abs", she has saved her best for last, recording a career-best .277 batting average including the only two extra base hits of her career, a pair of doubles. The Puyallup, Wash., native scored 19 runs, including three game winners, drew 14 walks and stole nine bases this year. Absher also drove in six RBI, including two game winners. The three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree also saw success in the classroom and graduated last Saturday with a degree in movement and sport science.
The 2004 Boilermakers posted a 34-24-1 record, marking the seventh-straight 30-win season in program history. The team set a single-season record in hit by pitches with 37, while several individual single-game, single season and career marks were also eclipsed.
Sophomore Katie Fortune tallied two home runs in a Feb. 27 contest with Bowling Green, making her the ninth Purdue players to tie the single-game record mark. Junior Tricia Lilley recorded two triples in the March 26 game with Detroit, tying five other players for that single-game mark. Seniors Andrea Hillsey and Shelli Messer each drew three walks in respective games this season. Hillsey's three free passes against UMKC on Feb. 11 and Messer's trio against Illinois-Chicago on March 20, mark the eighth and ninth three-walk day by a Purdue player.
Hillsey tied the single-season record mark in walks with 40, while setting new career records for runs scored (140), walks (116) and on-base percentage (.484).