Softball: Wildcats carry momentum into west coast trip

Michael Salik, Reporter


For the fourth weekend in a row, Northwestern will head out west, this time to take part in the Louisville Slugger Invitational in Fullerton, California.

The Wildcats (4-9) are coming off a tough performance at the Mary Nutter Classic, in which they lost their first three games before salvaging a win against a tough South Carolina team.

They will look to take the momentum from that final game into their contests this weekend.

“Obviously we’ve had a lot of close games, but it doesn’t matter when you’re losing. … we found a groove against South Carolina,” junior pitcher Amy Letourneau said. “We learned something about how to get it done from that game.”

NU saw a mini-offensive explosion in the contest against the Gamecocks, almost all of it courtesy of junior infielder Brianna LeBeau.

Against South Carolina, LeBeau produced one of the strongest performances of her career, as she drove in 5 of NU’s 6 runs and smashed the game-winning home run in the late innings.

Coming off a bit of a slow start, this was the type of performance LeBeau said she felt could get her going at the plate.

But despite her impressive afternoon and big hit heroics, LeBeau understood this was not necessarily the key to winning big games in Fullerton.

“The point of attack (this weekend) will be a number of little base hits,” she said. “We’ve gotten in trouble this year going for the big hit — that’s been our downfall. Playing scrappy is what we need to do.”

Compounding this struggle in identity this weekend will be the competition the Cats will have to face. NU is set to take on Southern Utah, Cal State Fullerton and Stanford before a highly anticipated rematch with No. 14 UCLA, a team that beat NU handily by a score of 12-3 just two weeks ago.

UCLA (13-4) has continued its strong play, outscoring its opponents at the Mary Nutter Classic last weekend by a total of 17 runs. Sophomore infielder Delaney Spaulding has led the way at the plate for the Bruins this season, displaying an impressive .440 batting average and already knocking in 19 runs.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior Ally Carda has been utterly dominant on the mound, pitching to a 2.25 ERA and striking out 64 batters over 46.2 innings of work.

But, as usual, NU feels confident in its chances.

“It’s really about keeping it simple,” LeBeau said. “At the beginning of the season, you come in and put some pressure on yourself. I think by keeping it simple, that’s really when we’ve had success.”

Along with simplicity both in offense and general approach, keeping games close by limiting the big innings will continue to be a focus for NU.

Junior Kristen Wood has been finishing off batters nicely, striking out nearly eight per seven innings with 47 Ks through 42 innings of work. Nonetheless, inconsistency has been a bit of an issue for both Wood and Letourneau, as their ERAs stand at 4.83 and 7.06, respectively.

But, more than any tactics or focuses, NU will need a relaxed approach to have success this weekend.

The Cats will look to take the pressure off of one another and just play loose, confident softball.

“We have some big games,” Letourneau said. “It’s all about playing as a team and really using the momentum from the South Carolina win.”

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