MAC attack: Offense breaks out against Huskies

Zach Silka

The football team tried to do it. The men’s basketball team did it. Now the Northwestern softball is doing it — beating up on opponents from the Mid-American Conference.

With a 9-0 thumping of Northern Illinois (10-23) Tuesday in DeKalb, Ill., the Cats (17-11) broke out of their hitting slump and pummeled the Huskies’ pitching with 11 hits. In its last three meetings, NU has outscored Northern Illinois 15-0.

“We looked very comfortable in the batter’s box today, and we were driving the ball well,” NU coach Kate Drohan said.

Senior catcher J.C. Kira led the offensive charge with a two-run homer off the top of the scoreboard in the third inning that put the game out of reach at 7-0. She also hit a two-run double off the center field wall in the second inning.

Senior second baseman Carri Leto, freshman designated player Garland Cooper, senior shortstop Eryn Manahan, and sophomore first baseman Jamie Dotson also chipped in with two hits a piece in the game.

“These midweek games are fun because there is not as much pressure, and we are more relaxed,” Kira said. “They are also good warm-ups for the weekend.”

The Cats’ pitching also had an exceptional day as sophomore pitcher Courtnay Foster threw a one-hit complete game shutout at Northern Illinois’ Bell Field.

It was the fourth time in five games that the Huskies were shut out.

“Courtnay’s pitching has been much better lately,” Kira said. “This is more of what we normally see out of her.”

Huskies freshman third baseman Lacey Gones ended Foster’s no-hit bid in the bottom of the fourth inning.

She was jammed on the pitch but her hit escaped out of the infield.

The win moved Foster’s record for the season to 8-9 and comes on the heels of a tough loss Sunday at Illinois.

Foster gave up only two runs to the Fighting Illini but received no run support from her teammates.

“I didn’t really feel any extra motivation to come out and have a great game today, ” Foster said. “I try not to think about what anyone else is doing and just focus on my pitching.”

Foster said she was also pleased the Cats’ offense had an opportunity to break out of its hitting slump.

“We played very well, and our hitters saw a lot of good pitches today, ” she said. “We needed to come off the weekend with a strong performance, and we did that.”

The Cats now carry a two-game winning streak into this weekend. The tune-up game Tuesday allowed NU to gain some momentum and make valuable adjustments during the season, Drohan said.

“This is a game where we could make corrections with our swings and get on a roll,” she said. “It’s a no-pressure atmosphere where our players are relaxed but focused. This is why we play these midweek games.”