Softball: Northwestern bats look to bounce back against Illinois

Northwestern third baseman Marisa Bast leads the team with seven home runs and 26 RBI this season. The junior has started all 30 games for the Wildcats and is hitting .295 this year.

Daily file photo by Mackenzie McCluer

Northwestern third baseman Marisa Bast leads the team with seven home runs and 26 RBI this season. The junior has started all 30 games for the Wildcats and is hitting .295 this year.

Rebecca Friedman, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Wildcats look to ignite their bats against in-state rival Illinois, hosting the Fighting Illini in a three-game series this weekend.

After a tough loss against Loyola (Chicago) on Tuesday, in which the Wildcats were held to no runs on three hits, NU aims to mimic the offensive production they had against Minnesota last weekend.

“We need to focus on what we did against Minnesota and what we’re going to do against Illinois,” junior third baseman Marisa Bast said. “We’re going to put this behind us.” 

Although the Cats’ offense left something to be desired against the Ramblers, their production against the Golden Gophers was more on the level that it needs to be to beat Illinois this weekend.

The Cats knocked in 24 runs in the three games on 28 hits in their series against the Golden Gophers and took the series 2-1.

Against the Ramblers, the Cats’ bats couldn’t keep up with pitcher Brittany Gardner, their defense was certainly on. Sophomore Amy Letourneau pitched yet another impressive game after being named the national player of the week and the defense behind her made every play.

“We know what we can do offensively and defensively,” Bast said. “It’s only looking forward now, no looking back.”

Against Loyola, NU’s game plan against the tough Gardner, who they had trouble with in the past, was to play a lot of small ball. Even though the team is without senior shortstop Emily Allard, the program’s second-best base-stealer of all time, due to injury, coach Kate Drohan said she is confident the team has enough other weapons on the basepaths to put pressure on the opposition.

“I like our athleticism, and I like our speed,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Our goal today was to put the ball in play and put the pressure on the defense. To take the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and put it in the defense’s and they came up with the plays.” 

Drohan said a key for the Cats was to get the middle of their order going, a part that has in the past provided them with the most production, and that Loyola found a way to shut it down.

Letourneau, also an offensive asset for NU, credited the Cats’ impressive defense and the confidence that it gave her on the mound, as well as their collective offense against the Golden Gophers.

“We can lean on how well we played over the weekend,” she said. “We can pull on how well we hit against Minnesota and our defense played well (against Loyola) so we can lean on that as well.”

Part of the reason Letourneau has so much confidence in the defense behind her is how much the team has worked on the making plays that consistently happen when she pitches.

“We figured out how other teams hit the ball off me,” Letourneau said.

Letourneau gave the infield a lot of credit for perfecting how to field the soft ground balls that batters tend to hit off of her.

With the impressive pitching and defense NU has had so far, focusing on the offense and putting the tough loss behind them will be key in besting the Fighting Illini.

“I think that we just have to respond to this loss,” Letourneau said.