Softball: WIldcats run-ruled by Hawkeyes in Iowa City

Colin Becht

It seems like the Wildcats can’t catch a break. Four days after getting run-ruled by No. 18 Illinois for the first time in school history, Northwestern traveled to Iowa looking to snap out of its funk. Battling blustery, raining conditions in Iowa City, Iowa, the Cats couldn’t crack their recent curse, falling to the Hawkeyes 9-1 in six innings.

Iowa (19-13-1, 5-0 Big Ten) handed the Cats (16-14, 2-3 Big Ten) their third straight loss and second mercy-rule loss of the week.

NU spent most of the game playing catch up after Katie Brown got a hold of senior pitcher Lauren Delaney for a two-run home run in the bottom of the first.

After Delaney settled down and retired the Hawkeyes in the second and third innings, Iowa utilized a walk and back-to-back NU errors to spark a three-run rally in the fourth. Delaney couldn’t field a comebacker with two outs and a runner on first, and Iowa brought in a run after by junior infielder Robin Thompson’s throwing error.

Iowa took advantage of its new life in an inning that would have ended twice if not for errors, and Lindsey Digmann doubled to the left-center field gap to drive in two runs and extend the lead to 5-0.

The Cats finally got on the board in the top of the fifth with a two-out rally of their own. Freshman outfielder Kristin Scharkey reached first base when the umpires ruled that Brown had juggled the ball. That call was then reversed twice, and Scharkey remained on first. NU did not waste its extra out as Scharkey scored on senior Nicole Pauly’s double to center field.

The Cats gave that run back in the home half of the fifth when Jenny Schuelke scored on a wild pitch.

With the rain pounding in the sixth inning, the NU battery of Delaney and catcher Emily Haug struggled to keep the ball away from the backstop. Two wild pitches and a passed ball turned a pair of bunt singles into runs for the Hawkeyes.

After a 23-minute rain delay, junior hurler Jessica Smith replaced Delaney in the circle, but she was unable to halt the Hawkeye offense. With just one out in the sixth, Smith surrendered a double to left-center by Schuelke that scored Jordan Goschie. With the run the margin between the teams stood at eight, and the game concluded in the sixth.

The teams were originally scheduled to play a second game, but that contest was canceled due to weather. There is no word on when that game will be made up.

Delaney suffered her third straight losing decision, throwing five innings and giving up five earned runs. The Cats’ ace continued to struggle with her control, walking six Iowa batters. In last weekend’s series with Illinois, Delaney issued 13 free passes.

With two strikeouts in the game, Delaney became just the third NU pitcher to record over 1,100 strikeouts in her career. She is now 99 shy of the school record of 1,200 set by Lisa Ishikawa between 1984-87.

The Cats’ offense was battling the elements all game, and a first-inning shot off the bat of junior Michelle Batts was kept inside the fence by the wind. Still, freshman shortstop Emily Allard continued to have success in the leadoff spot, earning her seventh multi-hit game in the last eight contests.

NU will have to shake off the loss quickly as it heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a two-game series against the No. 6 Crimson Tide this weekend.

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