NU looks to keep on rolling

Nicholas Collins

Fond memories will be refreshed this weekend at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The Northwestern softball team will honor its former coach of 23 years today when Penn State comes to town.

The Wildcats (16-9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) welcome the Lady Lions (19-17, 4-4) and Ohio State (34-9, 5-3) in a four-game home-stand.

Friday’s ceremony for Drysdale will be especially sentimental, as Lady Lions coach Robin Petrini was an assistant under Drysdale seven years ago.

“Penn State is always an emotional game for the girls,” current NU coach Kate Drohan said.

It’s also a series that the Cats have traditionally looked back upon smiling — NU leads the all-time series 25-9, including a 2-0 sweep last season.

Despite the lopsided history between the teams, Drohan said the Lady Lions might be even more of a threat than the 34-9 Buckeyes (5-3 Big Ten).

“Penn State’s got speed and a lot of threats that can hurt you in a lot of different ways,” Drohan said. “It’ll be a well-played, tough game.”

This will be NU’s first full home weekend of conference play, an event the Cats have been eagerly anticipating.

“The girls really love playing at home,” Drohan said. “The ball seems to look closer to them when we’re playing on our field.”

NU’s pitchers will try to keep their arms glued on by the time the doubleheader with Ohio State rolls around.

The Cats will have played six games in five days, a tall order for their two-pitcher rotation of Lauren Schwendimann and Brie Brown. But with both juniors coming off shutouts, Drohan said she is comfortable with her team’s pitching situation.

“I think they’ll be ready and focused,” Drohan said. “We rested them today so they’ll be fresh for Penn State. Sunday, we’ll throw everything at them but the kitchen sink.”

NU completed a doubleheader sweep of Northern Illinois on Wednesday, a rare break from Big Ten play that Drohan said was advantageous.

“It was good because we came out ready, played strong and won,” Drohan said. “It kept the snowball rolling a little bit.”

NU’s best conference start in 15 years created this “snowball” effect. It’s an accomplishment of which the Cats are both well aware and very proud.

“Big Ten play is all about how hard you fight any given day, ” Drohan said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

After the brief break, the Cats are eager to build on the quick start and re-sink their teeth into conference opponents.

“Every single inning counts now,” Drohan said. “We’re really excited, it’s going to be a big day for us (Friday.)”