Softball: Northwestern hoping to start rally at Michigan State

Colin Becht

Northwestern fell behind 8-0 Saturday at Michigan before rallying to make the game competitive with a five-run fourth inning. The Wildcats came within three runs of the second-ranked Wolverines before Michigan pulled away in an 11-7 win.

Midway through their conference season the Cats are in a similar hole, sitting in sixth place in the Big Ten standings, and they know they have some more rallying to do.NU (18-18, 4-5 Big Ten) has been unable to play up to its expectations as the 15th-ranked team in the preseason.

“The best thing for us would be just to learn from the experience, learn from our mistakes, and let go of whatever happens,” freshman shortstop Emily Allard said. “It’s a new team. It’s a new opportunity.”

NU’s first chance to reclaim its season is today, when it takes on Michigan State (18-21, 4-6). The Spartans bring a strong pitching staff to the diamond, anchored by Lauren Kramer, who has posted a 2.33 ERA this season. Kramer is one of three pitchers on the Spartans staff with a sub-three ERA.

“We’re really looking for our offense to continue to focus on being aggressive and getting all aspects of our offense going,” coach Kate Drohan said.

The Cats’ offense has lacked consistency. After scoring only two runs on five hits in a doubleheader against Alabama two weeks ago, NU notched 19 runs in a sweep of Minnesota last week. The day after scoring seven runs on Michigan last weekend, the Cats were shut out 15-0.

Senior infielder Nicole Pauly said the main problem for the offense was a lack of patience. The Cats were going after pitches opposing pitchers wanted them to, rather than waiting for more hittable opportunities.

“As long as we attack the pitches we know we can attack, and then go from there, our momentum is on our side,” Pauly said. “We’re a bunch of great hitters, so we’re facing some pretty tough pitchers. When we swing at their pitches, we got to stay confident in the box.”

The Cats are looking for consistency in the circle as well after allowing 26 runs against Michigan. Drohan said she will look to the depth in the pitching staff, using junior Jessica Smith and freshman Meghan Lamberth in addition to senior ace Lauren Delaney.

“What we’re really looking for is solid outings from all three of them,” Drohan said.

With just over a quarter of the regular season remaining, the Cats will have to begin recovering their season immediately. Drohan said she was impressed by her team’s ability to come back on Saturday after facing such a large early deficit.

“It’s just a matter of committing to playing every pitch with that kind of energy,” Drohan said. “We all understand that’s what we’re capable of.”

Allard said it will only take a small momentum shift for NU to launch a hot streak.

“It’s contagious,” she said. “We’ve just got to figure out how to keep it going.”[email protected]