Softball: Errors get to Wildcats in loss at Iowa

Adam Fusfeld

Despite winning three of four Big Ten games on the road this weekend, No. 14 Northwestern left Iowa with a sour taste in its mouth.

The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats Sunday afternoon after NU took the first game of the doubleheader and two contests against Illinois on Friday and Saturday.

Friday, the Cats beat the Fighting Illini 6-2 behind 15 Lauren Delaney strikeouts and 40 mph winds. Shortstop Tammy Williams contributed a hit in each of her three at-bats, and catcher Erin Dyer hit a solo home run.

Between pockets of heavy rains that caused three delays, NU won the second game of the series 11-6. The seven inning game took three hours and 12 minutes to complete.

The Cats offense powered the high-scoring series finale with four home runs and hits from each of the nine starters. The round-trippers came off the bats of Michelle Batts, Nicole Pauly, Darcy Sengewald and Dyer.

It was Dyer’s third straight game with a home run.

“It was windier (on Saturday) than I think I’ve ever seen in Big Ten play, so for me it was definitely a factor, but I think our team handled it extremely well,” Dyer said. “We know how important each Big Ten game is, and I think we’re always ready to make it a full-day fight when it comes to bad weather.”

After battling through the lengthy contest Saturday, the Cats fought through two tough games Sunday. The first game was a pitchers’ duel between two of the conference’s top hurlers.

Delaney had a no-hitter through five innings and finished the game without allowing a run, leading NU to a 2-0 victory. The Cats got two runs in the top of the fourth off of Hawkeye ace Brittany Weil on a Darcy Sengewald RBI bunt and a Michelle Batts RBI single.

Before the Iowa series, NU coach Kate Drohan emphasized the importance of fielding.

“I think what we need to do is defend well,” Drohan said. “We need to play good defense. Iowa’s traditionally always been a very short-game kind of team, so if we can take that away from them we should be in good shape.”

Drohan’s words proved prophetic in the second game, as three first-inning errors helped down NU 5-2. Cats freshman Jessica Smith allowed five runs to cross the plate in the first, two of them unearned, before Delaney came on in relief and pitched six innings of shutout ball.

NU was able to manufacture two first-inning runs off Weil but failed to score again against the Hawkeyes ace.

“I think that we just didn’t make adjustments very well in the box,” said Williams, who had four walks in the series. “I think she pitched a very good game, but we needed to do some things offensively to make things happen.”

The game marked the first Big Ten loss of the season for the Cats. The four weekend games leave the Cats with a 9-1 record in the conference and 23-10 on the year.

“We’re going to learn from this loss and get better,” Williams said. “It’s nice that we got three wins, but we’re still definitely not happy with how we performed because of the one loss.”

NU finally returns home after five straight road contests with a game Tuesday afternoon against Notre Dame (25-11). The Cats say they hope to rebound from the loss, and continue to prepare for the postseason.

“I think our team remains focused; we understand where we fell short today and what we need to do to continue to take this team to the next level,” Drohan said. “That’s what I really like about this team – they allow adversity to make them a little bit better. So we’ll get back to work this week and continue to get better.”

[email protected]