NU faces Sheridan Road battle

Coley Harvey

Sophomore pitcher and Chicago-area native Megan Hinck likes playing at Loyola if for no other reason than because of the short road trip.

“It’s really nice to stay in the area,” Hinck said. “It’s nice not having to be on a bus too long.”

While most NU students were deeply entrenched in winter quarter midterms and finals in February and March, No. 18 Northwestern endured long plane rides to Arizona, Florida and California for various tournaments. Today, however, the frequent-flier Cats will travel by bus a grand total of 4.44 miles for a doubleheader against Loyola at 3 p.m. today.

According to mapquest.com, the bus ride south on Sheridan Road should take approximately 12 minutes, a somewhat overly optimistic estimate with Chicago traffic.

Hinck, who once pitched 27 innings in a high school softball game — the second-longest in Illinois history — went to Lake Zurich High School. She had the opportunity to attend Illinois State and DePaul but turned down those offers in favor of NU and coach Kate Drohan.

Hinck decided to join the Cats because of the school’s reputation for academic excellence and for the rapport the softball program began to create, she said.

“Plus, it’s always good to be playing in a conference like the Big Ten,” Hinck said.

Against Loyola last season, Hinck made her first collegiate appearance in the circle as a closer, picking up the save in a 6-3 NU win.

Hinck also has emerged as a reliable utility player with a .220 batting average this season, good enough for seventh on the team, while making four pitching appearances.

Another reason she and the Cats enjoy playing nearby schools is because “a lot more of our regular fans are able to come out for these games.”

With wins in tomorrow’s doubleheader, those fans will have the opportunity to witness two streaks in progress. If the Cats win both games, they will extend their win streak against Loyola to eight games. NU has not lost to Loyola in six meetings since 1999.

In addition to that streak, the Cats boast an eight-game win streak that includes eight consecutive wins against Big Ten opponents. If the Cats are to extend these streaks, they will have to “focus on scoring more runs later in the game as opposed to just jumping out early,” Hinck said.

Reach Coley Harvey at [email protected]

No. 18 NU (26-9) vs. Loyola (10-20)

3 p.m. and 5 p.m., today

Loyola Softball Park

Chicago