Softball: Wildcats outlast Nittany Lions in Big Ten sweep

Northwestern outfielder Olivia Duehr went 2-for-3 and scored 4 times in NU’s 17-14 win over Penn State on Saturday. The sophomore also hit a home run in Friday’s 8-3 win over the Nittany Lions.

Daily file photo by Melody Song

Northwestern outfielder Olivia Duehr went 2-for-3 and scored 4 times in NU’s 17-14 win over Penn State on Saturday. The sophomore also hit a home run in Friday’s 8-3 win over the Nittany Lions.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

The Wildcats had more bite than the Lions this weekend in University Park, Pa.

Northwestern swept a key three-game series against Penn State, keeping the Cats in contention with the top teams in the conference.

In Sunday’s matchup, the final of the weekend, the Cats outlasted the Nittany Lions 2-1, led by ace sophomore Amy Letourneau on the mound. 

“We spotted Penn State some runs throughout the weekend,” coach Kate Drohan said. “The bottom line is we had tremendous fight. Our goal this weekend was to come in and sweep, and it took a lot of guts, it took a lot of fight, and Amy came up with a couple of big strikeouts in the sixth and seventh inning today to get it done for us.” 

Letourneau gave up only 1 run on 4 hits with 7 strikeouts in the complete game effort, not to mention going 3-for-4 at the plate. Letourneau said that at this point she feels just as comfortable behind the plate as she does on the mound.

“The difference is completely confidence,” she said. “I’ve learned the rest of our offense can hit all the time, and I’m like, I know I can hit, too and then I started hitting, and my swing feels really great.”

In the first two games of the series, the Cats’ tremendous and deep offense was on display. The Cats bested the Nittany Lions 8-3 in their first matchup. NU’s power hitters took hold of the game for the Cats in the sixth inning. Sophomores Andrea DiPrima and Olivia Duehr hit back-to-back home runs to keep the already hot rally going for the Cats, and junior Paige Tonz crushed another homer in the same inning to give the Cats an 8-2 lead that they would never relinquish.

“When you have that type of production that’s really balanced and steady, different people are stepping up everyday,” Drohan said of the depth of the lineup.

The Cats kept the offensive momentum going into Saturday, knocking in 17 runs on 16 hits over eight innings to top Penn State 17-14. Letourneau led the Cats at the plate, finishing 4-for-5 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, as well as on the mound, getting the win for the Cats. 

The weekend showed how versatile the team is, with the Cats winning both low- and high-scoring games. 

“It shows how tough we are. No matter what’s in front of us, we can win any game,” sophomore Anna Edwards said. “We’re never out of a game because our offense is so potent.” 

Edwards has been a staple for the Cats’ offense all year, batting in the five spot. Drohan attributed Edwards’ success to not only her skill, but also the depth of the lineup surrounding her.

Although the Cats’ offense is clicking, their defense can still be improved. NU committed 5 errors on the weekend, and in order to beat tough upcoming competition like Wisconsin, the Cats will have to limit their errors.

Edwards said the Cats can’t be complacent in the field when their offense is carrying them.

“Definitely when things are happening like it did (Saturday), it’s hard to stay focused, but I have so much trust in our pitchers and our offense that if they happen to score a couple of runs, we can tack on even more,” she said.

The wins propel the Cats to 9-5 in conference and 25-16 in the season.

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