Softball: Wildcats drop 2 of 3 to Golden Gophers

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

No. 23 Northwestern had a chance to take the series against No. 14 Minnesota but fell 3-1 Sunday in a close game at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis.

NU (23-11, 6-6 Big Ten) opened the series with an offensive outburst against Minnesota (32-6, 10-3) and its ace Sara Moulton, pouring in 13 runs and matching a program record with 17 hits.

“Moulton’s a great pitcher,” junior outfielder Andrea DiPrima said. “Our team just happens to see her pitches really well, and we just did a good job of keeping our focus the entire game and not letting up.”

DiPrima had herself a great day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. But the entire Wildcat order was filled with gaudy statlines; all nine starters recorded a base hit, and all but two recorded an RBI and scored a run.

The tables turned, however, in game two. The Golden Gophers returned the favor with 13 runs of their own while holding the Cats to 5.

The Northwestern offense put up a combined 6 runs in games two and three. They seemed to struggle against the style of Sara Groenewegen, who pitched well Saturday and Sunday, striking out a combined 20 Wildcat batters in the two games.

“Moulton’s more of a drop ball pitcher, and the other Sara, she’s more of a rise ball pitcher,” DiPrima said. “Credit to her, she did a great job.”

Groenwegen, whose name may be difficult to remember, will be hard to forget for the Cats. A freshman from White Rock, British Columbia, she has come on strong this year, earning multiple Big Ten honors. DiPrima said the Wildcat batters just weren’t able to make an adjustment fast enough.

On Sunday afternoon, the teams got back together to settle the score. Neither pitcher gave up much ground offensively, and the game came down to a few at-bats.

Minnesota scratched first in the third inning. After sophomore outfielder Sydney Fabian was hit by a pitch, junior shortstop Tyler Walker launched a 2-run home run to give the Golden Gophers a 2-0 lead.

While sophomore pitcher Kristen Wood kept up her solid pitching, NU was able to inch closer with a run in the fifth. Sophomore utility player Brianna LeBeau scored from first by a double from senior catcher Paige Tonz, which made the score 2-1.

The Cats had a chance to tie the game in the top of the sixth. DiPrima singled to center field, and pinch runner Fran Strub scampered to second. With a runner in scoring position, Groenwegen came up big, striking out the next two batters and keeping the score 2-1.

Minnesota then forced three straight walks in the sixth, putting pitcher Nicole Bond in a bind. She escaped with only one run given up however, so the score was 3-1 going into the final inning.

A rally seemed possible when LeBeau tripled to lead off the seventh inning. Junior infielder Julia Kuhn walked, but a Tonz double play and a groundout from senior Emily Allard ended the game.

Overall, it was a close series, the type the Cats will be facing down the stretch and into the Big Ten tournament.

“We love the challenge,” DiPrima said. “We get up to play these big teams, and it’s fun this year — the Big Ten is so competitive. We’re gonna take a lot of lessons away from this series.”

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