NU attempting to extinguish fire against local rival Flames (Softball)

Andrew Simon

After demolishing the competition by a combined score of 41-6 in their first weekend of Big Ten competition, the Wildcats appeared to be sitting pretty atop the conference.

But No. 15 Northwestern (25-10, 6-2 in Big Ten) was sent plummeting back to Earth on Sunday when it was swept in a doubleheader by Ohio State. Now, with the lessons from these losses in mind and more than half of the Big Ten schedule still remaining, the Cats will try to rebound and move forward.

“(The losses) show we have to work through the hard times,” junior pitcher Eileen Canney said. “They were hard losses, but we won’t let it happen again.”

Before resuming their Big Ten season Friday against Indiana, NU will host Illinois-Chicago at Sharon J. Drysdale Field at 4 p.m. today.

The Cats will have a lot to work on against the Flames after losing two one-run games to the Buckeyes in which they made five errors, left 15 runners on base and scored just three times.

The inability to drive in runs was a particular problem for the Cats, who failed to convert on a bases loaded, no-out situation in the seventh inning of the first game that would have put them ahead. In the second game against the Buckeyes, they scored twice in the first and had runners on second and third with one out but couldn’t tack on any more.

“The effort was there but what was happening was we were trying to do too much instead of just trying to put the ball in play,” coach Kate Drohan said. “We’re going to get back to the basics and work on hitting the ball on the ground and hitting it hard.”

Before NU can look to turn things around in the Big Ten, it will have to deal with Illinois-Chicago. Although the Flames play in the Horizon League and are 15-23 overall, they’ve hung in against highly ranked teams such as No. 5 Stanford and No. 7 Oregon State.

“I’m looking for (my players) to play hard,” Drohan said. “We’re going to work on a lot of different components to our game, specifically generating offense.”

This season’s first Big Ten slip-up came much earlier than it did last year, when NU began its conference schedule with 14 straight wins. But after starting off hot, the Cats lost four of their last six Big Ten contests, including Big Ten tournament games. Now NU will hope its struggles are out of the way early this time around.

“I think we’re learning our lesson more quickly this year,” senior designated player Kristen Amegin said. “We learned it (Sunday), and it won’t happen again.”

Most of all, the Cats are eager to return to the diamond and to their winning ways.

“We’re all hungry now to get back on the field and perform like we know how,” Amegin said. “We’re going to come out aggressive and ready.”

Reach Andrew Simon at [email protected]