Softball: Northwestern preparing for tough test at Michigan

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Northwestern will end the season against one of the toughest teams they will face all year.

The Wildcats close their regular season against No. 10 Michigan with a three-game series in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Wolverines’ 17-2 conference record puts them atop the Big Ten and on their way to a regular-season championship.

The Cats will have to play at the top of their game to steal a few victories from the Wolverines this weekend.

With five straight victories, the Cats have played solid ball lately and head into the series with complete confidence that they can compete at such a high level.

“All we have to do is keep composure and get hits and outs when we need to,” senior pitcher Meghan Lamberth said. “We’ve got nothing to lose.”

While wins in Ann Arbor would undoubtedly boost confidence heading into postseason play, the Cats sit in a lock with Minnesota at fourth in the conference and Ohio State only three games behind. The Cats have the No. 5 seed in the tournament at the moment because the Golden Gophers’ have a higher win percentage due to their shorter schedule. The Cats can fall no lower than fifth no matter what happens this weekend. However, a fourth seed will gain them a bye in the first round of the tournament.

Michigan has Wisconsin on its tail at two games back, challenging for the top seed.

NU’s defense, pitching and offense, which has been clicking all season, are all coming together as of late, proving they are really running on all cylinders.

“I like how aggressive we’re being,” coach Kate Drohan said.

Drohan also emphasized the confidence that she has in the pitching staff as a whole after seeing Lamberth pitch a complete game victory and spoke to how well junior pitcher Sammy Albanese has looked in her bullpen sessions.

Sophomore pitcher Amy Letourneau, the staple of the team on both offense and in the circle, echoed Drohan and Lamberth, saying the team feels as though they are excelling in parts of the game and that they are ready for the upcoming challenges.

NU and Michigan did not face off last year, but they still have a decent rivalry. The two teams combine for nine of the last 10 Big Ten regular-season championships and split the series 10-10 since 2002 when Drohan became the head coach.

“We just have to approach this like any other Big Ten series,” Drohan said. “We need to focus on the game plan and take each game one at a time. We’re ready to take them.”

Although Letourneau has never played Michigan due to the two teams not facing off last season, said she looks forward to playing such a highly ranked conference opponent. Lamberth agreed and emphasized how much fun it is to play in Ann Arbor.

“It’s crazy atmosphere playing there,” she said.