NU eeks past in-state foe, moves to 23-8 (Softball)

Andrew Simon

After cruising through four Big Ten contests last weekend, No. 16 Northwestern found some stiff competition yesterday against the Northern Illinois Huskies.

The Huskies (10-14), who entered the contest losers of their first four conference games, used three different pitchers to contain a hot NU offense and mounted multiple late-game charges against the Cats (23-8). But on a blustery afternoon at Mary M. Bell Field in DeKalb, Ill., NU ultimately outlasted Northern Illinois, 3-1.

“(Midweek games) are tough,” coach Kate Drohan said. “The routine is a little different. It was a new experience for our freshman, but I thought they did fairly well. It takes a little extra to get ready for these games.”

Senior pitcher Courtnay Foster moved to 13-4 on the season with her complete game victory. Foster gave up one run on four hits and struck out 12, wriggling out of some tight spots to help the Cats hang on to the game.

With NU holding a slim 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Northern Illinois loaded the bases with two outs before Foster whiffed junior center fielder Kelly Park to end the inning.

After Foster surrendered her only run of the game on senior left fielder Kelly Drozd’s homer to lead off the sixth, the Huskies pulled within just one run. A single with one out put the tying run on base, but again, Foster escaped trouble.

“I really liked the way Courtnay pitched today, ” Drohan said. “She made key pitches in big situations with runners in scoring position.”

Despite Foster’s performance, the game stayed close, as the Cats suddenly had difficulty pushing runs across after scoring 41 times in four games over the weekend.

NU pounded out 10 hits against senior Lindsey LaChiana and two relievers, but due to high winds, was unable to turn them into runs.

“We’ve been hitting the ball well every game, but sometimes there are other factors that go into it,” said junior left fielder Katie Logan, who lead the Cats with three hits. “People were making good hits, but because of the wind, the ball was hanging up in the air. Without the wind, they might have been hits.”

In her last two games, Logan hasn’t been bothered by anything at the plate, going 6 for 7. Against the Huskies, she broke a scoreless tie by singling in a run in the second inning.

“It’s just a matter of being more focused on my at-bats,” Logan said of her recent success. “Sometimes I have a tendency not to be as focused on some at-bats. So I’ve been making it a point to see every pitch as well as I can.”

Junior first baseman Garland Cooper, the Big Ten Player of the Week, followed with an RBI single of her own to put NU up 2-0. NU also picked up an insurance run in the seventh on senior catcher Kristen Amegin’s RBI double.

The Huskies got the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh when Foster surrendered a two-out walk. But like she did all afternoon, Foster buckled down and earned a strikeout, ending a close call for the Cats.

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