Non-conference game to sharpen team for Big Ten play

Lily Leung

Non-conference game to sharpen team for Big Ten play

Cats to seek to end their hitting woes in contest against Northern Illinois

By Lily Leung

The Daily Northwestern

After the Wildcats earned a split in Sunday’s doubleheader against Illinois, the Northwestern softball team is looking to build momentum before its next Big Ten game.

To do that, NU must beat Northern Illinois, Cats coach Kate Drohan said.

“This is an opportunity to build on a possible win,” Drohan said. “We’re using this game to get work in and to sharpen us up.”

The Cats (16-11, 1-3 Big Ten) will take a break from their conference schedule and face the Huskies (10-22) at 4 p.m. today at Mary Bell Field in Dekalb, Ill.

The contest against the Mid-American Conference team will be the Cats’ first non-conference game since a 7-6 upset loss to Washington on Mar. 26.

Although it has been two years since NU has matched up against the Huskies, Drohan said Northern Illinois still has a good coaching staff and competitive players.

Drohan said she’s preparing her squad by observing the Huskies’ pitching.

“I’m sure they’re going to throw different things at us,” Drohan said. “They’ve always played tough against us, but we just have to focus on playing our best and focusing on our execution.”

Senior second baseman Carri Leto recalls playing the Huskies, and said she shares Drohan’s concerns.

“I remember their hitting and pitching being pretty well,” Leto said. “They’re a beautiful team, but as long as we play real NU softball, this will be a good opportunity to create an offense and score a lot of runs.”

Drohan’s main goal is simply for her team to get as many at-bats as possible, but Leto and other players said they have more specific adjustments in mind.

“We’ll just have to see their pitching and hit the ball on the plane instead of hitting so many fly balls,” Leto said. “After the first inning we just have to make the changes on the spot.”

The Cats last faced the Huskies in a doubleheader two years ago at Sharon Drysdale Field, and won both games, 5-0 and 1-0. Last year’s scheduled game against the Huskies was canceled because of inclement weather.

The Cats won their last Big Ten game against Illinois, but lost their first three — two against Iowa and one against Illinois.

Leto is optimistic about what a win in today’s game could do for the Cats.

“Even though it’s not Big Ten, it’s just as important to us,” Leto said. “We’ve been in a hitting slump, but hopefully this will get us on a hitting roll.

“We expect to win every Big Ten game because we see none of them as better than us,” she added. “It’s a letdown that we lost the first three games, but there’s a lot of the season ahead of us.”