Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Softball: NU heads to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 6 Alabama

A week ago Northwestern sat at a respectable 16-11 mark. The Cats swept Purdue in their first conference series, making them winners of seven of their last eight games.

“We’ve matured a lot,” coach Kate Drohan said before NU’s game against Purdue. “We’re executing at a much higher level.”

But after two losses to No. 18 Illinois last weekend and a mercy-rule defeat at Iowa on Wednesday, the Cats’ season has hit its nadir. And this weekend things could get even worse.

NU (16-14) travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday for a two-game series against 6th-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide (29-9) are winners of 11 of their last 13 games, including three victories against top-15 squads.

Despite their four-game losing streak, Drohan said the Cats are eager to get back onto the field.

“We’re working, and our efforts are toward different results,” Drohan said. “But at this point everybody’s really looking for us to step up.”

Different results may be hard to come by against Alabama’s ace Kelsi Dunne. Opponents have hit a minuscule .184 against the junior, who is 16-4 on the season. The right-handed power pitcher has 198 strikeouts in 119.2 innings.

As for hitting, a rare combination of power and speed forms the backbone of the Crimson Tide’s lineup. Their high-octane offense has launched 61 home runs this season-19 more than any Big Ten team-while averaging more than two stolen bases each game.

Like NU, Alabama has a freshman at the top of the order. Kayla Braud is hitting .491 on the season for the Crimson Tide, good for fifth in the country. She is also 20-for-23 in stolen base attempts. Braud’s ability to jump start the offense has helped Alabama score almost seven runs per game.

Most worrisome for the Cats, however, is the Crimson Tide’s knack for getting on base. Alabama reaches base more than 41 percent of the time, mostly due to its ability to draw walks. To make matters worse, bases on balls have been a particular area of concern for NU.

“If Alabama gets anything they have to earn it,” Drohan said. “That’s really our number one thing right now. Defensively and from the circle we really need to start stepping up and forcing the other team to earn what they get.”

Senior pitcher Lauren Delaney has been especially wild. NU’s ace leads the Big Ten with 81 walks, more than six entire pitching staffs in the conference. During her current three-game losing streak, Delaney has issued 17 free passes.

The senior has seen her record drop below .500 and her ERA balloon to 3.22. Drohan knows the Cats need Delaney to be successful against Alabama, and she acknowledged that something needs to change.

“We’re working on several different things with [Delaney] right now,” Drohan said.

Meanwhile, NU’s offense has scored only six runs in its last three games. Freshman Emily Allard has kept her streak alive-she has stroked multiple hits in seven of the last eight games-but the rest of the offense hasn’t followed suit. The lineup, which features four hitters with seven or more home runs, has been held homer-less during the team’s current losing streak. Still, the long ball will be important for NU if the Cats are to rebound from their current slide and return to the win column.

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Softball: NU heads to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 6 Alabama