Cats in funk, blow early leads in 2 losses at Iowa

Lily Leung

Last Friday and Saturday looked a little like a reprise of the Northwestern softball team’s 2-0 loss to Iowa last year in the Big Ten Championships.

Same field, same opponent, but this time, they lost twice.

However, NU players who played at last year’s championship game and this weekend’s games at Bob Pearl Field in Iowa City, Iowa, said they saw no resemblance between the games.

“Last year we had a great week, and Iowa just had a better day the day of the championships,” starting pitcher Courtnay Foster said. “But this week, we’ve been struggling to get our bearings back.”

The Wildcats (16-11, 1-3 Big Ten) lost to the Hawkeyes 7-2 in the first game and 6-1 in the second game of the conference-opening series.

The Cats took early leads in both games, but they could not hold on, a pattern they have repeated in the last six games, coach Kate Drohan said.

Second baseman Carri Leto and right fielder Erin Mobley managed one run each in the first inning, giving the Cats a short-lived lead. NU allowed seven runs in the last three innings.

“We’ve been struggling offensively and it’s been affecting our games,” Drohan said. “We protect our leads instead of attacking and it’s become contagious.”

Sophomore pitcher Foster, who came into the game with a team-high 116 strikeouts, surrendered three walks in the fourth inning, allowing Iowa to score three runs.

“Sometimes you just get in a funk and we just have to get on it,” Foster said. “We’ve been having a hitting slump, but it’s something you can’t predict and that you just have to play through.”

After taking the lead, the Hawkeyes (20-15, 2-0) scored two runs in both the sixth and seventh frames to put the game out of reach.

“We had our opportunities in this game, but we could not make the big pitch or get the big hit when it really mattered,” Drohan said.

The Cats again took an early lead in the second game. Freshman designated player Garland Cooper hit a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded to score Sheila McCorkle and give the Cats a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Foster surrendered a weak single and a walk to start the fourth inning and then was lifted for Canney. But the damage was done: The Hawkeyes grabbed a 4-1 advantage, and added two more runs in the final inning.

“We outplayed ourselves (at Iowa) and we have to make adjustments,” McCorkle said.

Drohan maintains that non-conference games against top teams prepared her team for the regular season.

“We were just too hyped up for the Big Ten, and that was no help this week,” Drohan said.