Softball: Cats look to reload after midweek Loyola loss

Colin Becht and Colin Becht

If not for Jenna Grim, Northwestern likely would have won Thursday’s contest against Loyola. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Grim did play -and almost singlehandedly beat NU 3-2.

“At this time of year, it’s about making a big defensive play, making a big pitch, or getting the big hit,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Today, Loyola did it and we didn’t.”

Behind a two-run homer and double from Grim and a great outing from pitcher Hilary Payne, the Ramblers (16-17) prevented the Cats (20-19) from picking up their third-straight win.

“We didn’t make a very good adjustment today in the batter’s box,” Drohan said.

Payne dominated the NU offense, allowing only six hits and one earned run. She consistently forced the Cats to hit pop-ups, earning 11 of her 21 outs through fly balls compared to four groundouts. Senior Kelly Dyer said the main problem for the offense was adjusting to a slower pitcher.

“She was mixing in a lot of changeups,” Dyer said. “We were just getting ahead of ourselves, you know, dropping our barrel.”

NU scored the game’s first run in the third when a two-out base hit by senior infielder Nicole Pauly that scored freshman shortstop Emily Allard.

After hitting four homers in yesterday’s two wins over Michigan State, the Cats knocked just one ball out of the park Thursday, a solo shot by Dyer in the seventh that brought the game within one. However, the Cats could not continue the rally to tie the game at three.

Dyer was the rare highlight of what was otherwise a rough day at the plate for NU. She went 3-3, including a double and the home run. Dyer has been especially strong offensively the last three games, during which she has gone 7-for-8.

“I’ve been really calm in the box lately,” Dyer said. “I’ve just been trying to see (the ball) deeper. And I think I was just letting it get deep and trying to send it to right field instead of pulling it.”

But the true offensive star of the game was Loyola’s Grim, who played a part in each of the Ramblers’ three runs. Her two-run homer off the bleachers beyond left field put Loyola up 2-1 in the fourth. She then helped add an insurance run by starting off the sixth inning with a double. Tori Spears, who pinch ran for Grim, scored the Ramblers’ third run on an RBI single by Bridget Lally.

With the exception of Grim, junior pitcher Jessica Smith limited the Loyola offense. Pitching her second consecutive complete game, Smith held Loyola to just three runs and struck out seven. Though Smith allowed 10 hits, she managed to scatter them throughout the game to avoid a sustained rally.

The Cats will have to quickly shake off this defeat as they head to Indiana this weekend to play a two-game series against the Hoosiers.

“We need to come out like it’s the Big Ten Championship,” Dyer said. “We need to start coming out like that every game instead of being up and down.”

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