Big Ten or not, Cats look to bring best

Lily Leung

The Northwestern softball team is like a machine that never turns off — not even for non-conference games, third baseman Kristen Amegin said.

“(The team) has to pull off the same performances at all the games,” Amegin said. “It’s something that can’t be turned off and on. We have to come off strong in all of them.”

The “machine” came off Easter Sunday with a two-game split against Big Ten foe Minnesota and will continue its operations at 4 p.m. Tuesday against non-conference opponent Loyola at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. This will be the Wildcats’ second non-conference game during the Big Ten season.

Team members said mid-week games against non-conference opponents aren’t easy wins — they’re experiences that contribute greatly to their preparations for weekend conference games.

“These games are good transitions,” Amegin said. “It gives us time to focus on hitting strategies that we can use on the weekends.”

The Cats (19-13, 3-5 Big Ten) shut out Northern Illinois, 9-0, last Tuesday in their first break from league play.

Amegin said she noticed the Huskies had a tendency to deliver slow pitches, which forced NU to have to adjust. Conveniently, the Cats saw similar pitching against Minnesota on Sunday.

“It’s a good thing we played Northern Illinois and saw both kinds of pitching,” Amegin said. “It just so happened that we saw it again at a Big Ten game.”

First baseman Garland Cooper said she made the same observation. Cooper said she hopes today’s showdown against the Ramblers will prepare the Cats for their weekend contests against conference foe Penn State.

Against Loyola, NU hopes to give its pitchers more run support than it has in past games. In two losses this past weekend, NU scored a combined three runs.

The Cats also would like to put in extra work from the batter’s box.

“Kristen’s right,” Cooper said. “The mid-week games have a little to do with the ones on the weekend. Loyola is kind of the same thing.”

The Cats defeated the Ramblers (15-20) last year in a doubleheader. But players still are wary of Loyola’s ace pitcher Lindsey LaChiana, who holds a 10-9 record and a 2.46 ERA.

“I only played Loyola once,” Amegin said. “I remember they pitched well last year, and it wasn’t a run-roll game. We played hard.”

Players said they will use this non-conference game to help them continue to improve defensively and better the way they put the ball in play.

Another main focus, players said, is ensuring they take care of every out and not stranding too many players on base.

“We look at every game as an opportunity to gain momentum,” Cooper said. “They’re good warm-ups for us.”