Brandi Needham Named Big Ten Pitcher, Freshman of the Week

Needham is the first Illini freshman to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week since 2001.
Needham is the first Illini freshman to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week since 2001.

May 5, 2014

Park Ridge, Ill. – Illinois hurler Brandi Needham closed out the regular season in style, earning two of the final three conference weekly honors of the year. After leading the Illini to a pair of complete-game victories at Penn State, Needham was named both Big Ten Pitcher of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week. These are the second and third weekly honors for the Illini this season, after Alex Booker picked up Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Feb. 24.

The Dripping Springs, Texas, native began the weekend by hurling a five-hit shutout to lead the Illini to a 5-0 victory. Penn State had nine baserunners in the game, but Needham’s poise and ability to draw ground balls helped Illinois to turn a school-record three double plays in the game, including sparking a 1-2-3 double play to get out of a bases-loaded jam. The win marked her fourth shutout of the season and first in Big Ten play.

Needham followed with a strong performance in the finale, limiting Penn State to just four hits and a walk, while surrendering just one score on a solo home run in the sixth. The 6-1 victory helped the Illini seal up the three-game sweep of Penn State and capture the ninth seed for the Big Ten Tournament.

On the whole, the freshman allowed just one run and one walk over 14.0 innings, going 2-0 with four strikeouts over two complete games.

Needham becomes the first Illinois pitcher to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week since the conference began awarding the honor in 2011. Additionally, she is the first Illinois freshman to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week since 2001, when the Illini fielded a team of 17 freshmen and hurlers Kathryn Nevard and Amanda Fortune both took home the weekly honor during their rookie campaigns.

Teammates Shelese Arnold (pitcher, Apr. 22) and Allie Bauch (freshman, Apr. 29) were the last Illini to earn each weekly honor, doing so in back-to-back weeks last season. Needham is the second Big Ten freshman to take home Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this season, following Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen, who earned Pitcher and Co-Freshman of the Week honors on April 7.

In addition to Needham, the conference also recognized Northwestern senior Mari Majam with Big Ten Player of the Week honors. The outfielder batted .700 with seven hits, five RBI, five runs scored and five stolen bases in leading Northwestern to a 3-1 record, including a weekend sweep of Michigan State. She posted an on base percentage of .800, and had a three-hit, two-steal game on Saturday against the Spartans.

Illinois concluded the regular season on Sunday but returns to action on Thursday, May 8, to face Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, hosted by Northwestern.