Softball: Wildcats hope to harness offense against Nittany Lions

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

The Northwestern offense has been explosive as of late.

The Wildcats put up 54 runs in the past five games and look to channel that potent offense this weekend against Penn State in a vital Big Ten matchup.

One of the most impressive things about NU’s scoring barrage has been the lineup’s ability to put up many runs in an inning regardless of the number of outs or the tally on the scoreboard.

Coach Kate Drohan sees this depth as one of the Cats’ biggest strengths.

“We have a lot of good hitters in a row, great production throughout lineup,” Drohan said. “To see (senior outfielder) Kristin Scharkey and (junior outfielder) Mari Majam getting on base as consistently as they are, is great. I’ve never had leadoffs with as good RBI numbers as they have. That means our eight and nine hitters are getting on.” 

Drohan also emphasized the power and skill of their lineup.

“We have four legit three batters in a row,” Drohan said. “They’re strong batters. When you have someone who’s 5-foot-10 in the seven hole and someone who has four home runs in the nine hole, it’s going to make your offense go and allow you to put up some crooked numbers.”

And that’s exactly what the Cats have been doing. NU has continued to have huge innings and pioneer comebacks. The potency of the team’s offense gives its pitchers confidence and takes off a lot of the pressure.

“I always have full confidence when I’m out there because I know that we’re going to hit,” sophomore pitcher Amy Letourneau said. “Let’s get back into the dugout and keep hitting because I know we’re going to score and get ahead, so it’s just get off the field.”

The Cats have done well relying on their strong offense, but their defense and pitching will have to keep up against Penn State this weekend in order for them to find success and improve their Big Ten record.

“We need to step up our defense and pitching, not a problem offensively right now, we can score as many runs as we need no matter how many we give up,” Letourneau said.

Against Northern Illinois on Tuesday, the Cats struggled a bit on the mound, going through three different pitchers. But the three pitchers didn’t commit any errors — an improvement on their recent 8-error weekend against Iowa.

However, the recent win over Northern Illinois is a good note for the Cats heading into Big Ten competition. Drohan said facing Northern Illinois’ left-handed pitcher will be helpful for NU against Penn State, where the team will expect to face a lefty as well.

Currently, the Cats sit at 22-16 with a 6-5 record in the Big Ten, sixth place in the Big Ten. The Cats haven’t faced a Big Ten opponent on the road since March 22, when they fell on the road twice to Nebraska. 

Penn State has a mere 2-11 record in conference and sits at 11th in the Big Ten.