Softball: Northwestern looks to defend position in Big Ten against Purdue

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Northwestern (17-11, 5-0 Big Ten) looks to continue its power surge as the team takes on Purdue (23-11, 4-2) in a three-game series starting Friday.

Last weekend in a weather-shortened two-game series against Wisconsin (13-18, 0-5), the Wildcats poured on the offense and scored a combined 33 runs between the matchups. In the first game, NU circled the bases 19 times, reaching its highest offensive output in 32 years while shutting out the Badgers. The Cats forced the eight-run rule again in game two, coasting to a 14-6 victory.

Thanks to a 6-1 Spring Break, NU sits in first place in Big Ten play, a half-game ahead of Michigan (31-5, 5-1) and Minnesota (29-5, 5-1).

After a 3-9 start to the season, the Cats won 14 of their last 16 contests. Despite the inconsistent season, coach Kate Drohan said her team always prepares on a game-by-game basis.

“We make adjustments every day,” Drohan said. “I think we learn very quickly, and we’re experiencing the results of those early tournaments now.”

Senior outfielder Olivia Duehr echoed her coach’s sentiments, saying NU maintains its focus throughout the season.

“We had a really hard schedule in the beginning and we knew that, as we moved forward, that was going to help us as we play in the Big Ten,” Duehr said.

The Cats have won 19 of their last 21 matchups against the Boilermakers heading into this weekend’s series, providing NU with some extra motivation against one of its conference rivals. Duehr also said she is excited to face off against Purdue ace Lilly Fecho, whom she played with in high school.

“She’s having an awesome year,” Duehr said of Fecho. “It’s kind of fun, especially for me personally just because I get to play against people that I’ve had a relationship with before.”

Fecho is tied for seventh nationally with 183 strikeouts and ranks 15th with a 1.19 ERA. Senior first baseman Julia Kuhn, who smashed two home runs in the Wisconsin series, won’t let Fecho’s numbers scare her.

“Based on the success that we’ve had, we need to just focus on ourselves,” Kuhn said. “I’m confident in the fact that our team can score against anyone, so we all just need to have that mentality. It’s just another uniform.”

While the upcoming series will likely have a significant impact on the conference standings, Kuhn isn’t letting the rivalry aspect of the matchup get into her head.

“In the Big Ten, everybody’s your rival,” Kuhn said. “The game’s never over until it’s actually over. We have to stay with our foot on the gas pedal, keep aggressive and play our game, and not let the rivalry get in our heads.”

The Cats kick off their series against Purdue at 4 p.m. Friday at the Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

Email: maxgelman2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @maxgelman

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