Rain stalls Wildcats’ run in the Bluegrass

Sam Hong

After the Northwestern softball team won two of its first three games this weekend, its momentum came to a screeching halt.

But it wasn’t an opposing team that stifled the Wildcats – it was Mother Nature.

NU’s last two games were canceled, but the Cats (6-6-1) climbed back to the .500 mark by going 2-1 in a rain-shortened tournament in Louisville, Ky.

The Cats were kept from playing their last two games against Kent State and Toledo because of a thunderstorm.

NU started the weekend well, recording its first shutout of the season in a 3-0 defeat of Northern Iowa.

Junior Lauren Schwendimann pitched six shutout innings and recorded six strikeouts. She also helped her own cause with a home run – the first of her career.

Shortstop Carri Leto provided NU all the offense it needed by smacking a two-run double in the sixth inning. Schwendimann’s home run added some insurance, as closer Brie Brown came in to record her second save of the season.

“I was really pleased with the (Northern Iowa) game,” coach Kate Drohan said. “(Schwendimann) had zero walks, which was something that we always look for.”

But the Cats had little time to celebrate the victory as they squared off against tournamnet host Louisville immediately after the game against Northern Iowa.

The Cardinals jumped on Brown for a first-inning home run, and the Cats were never able to recover in a 6-1 loss.

Louisville pitcher Jessica Rak held the NU offense in check, pitching a complete game and allowing only six hits.

“We seemed to lose focus around the fifth inning,” senior Gretchen Barnes said. “We weren’t near the top of our game.”

Leto also voiced disappointment with the team’s performance against Louisville, pinpointing NU’s lack of offense.

“For some reason, we had trouble with (Rak),” Leto said. “They may have been better than Northern Iowa, but they’re not better than us.”

Drohan, however, found a different problem with the loss to Louisville: errors and walks. The Cats committed four defensive blunders, and Brown gave out five free passes.

But NU showed its competitive edge by roaring back the next day against Belmont in the first-ever matchup between the two teams. The Cats went on an offensive tear, collecting 17 hits in a 12-2 rout.

The offensive stars of the day included Barnes, who went 3-for-3 with two home runs and five RBIs, and senior Erin Jancic, who went 4-for-4 with one very monumental RBI.

Jancic’s RBI was the 92nd of her career, giving her the all-time NU lead in that category.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Jancic said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it, and I’m sure it will be broken soon. So it won’t affect my confidence at all.”

But Drohan was less modest about the broken record.

“It’s a huge stat, just a really impressive accomplishment,” Drohan said.

Brown pitched well for NU, notching her first win of the season with a seven-inning performance. She scattered four hits and struck out six to rebound from the previous day’s loss to Louisville.

The Cats scored four runs in the final inning to put the finishing touches on the blowout.

Then the rain began to pour, cutting the weekend short and leaving the Cats hungry for more.

“We were definitely disappointed with the tournament being cut short,” Drohan said. “Right now we have a lot of confidence in our hitting, and our offense is up there with the best of the Big Ten.”