Softball: Wildcats hope latest victory can reverse sliding momentum


Lauren Duquette/The Daily Northwestern

Sammy Nettling frames a pitch. The freshman catcher said she believes consistent pitching is the key for Northwestern in climbing the Big Ten standings.

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor


Following a dramatic 5-3 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers last Sunday, Northwestern hopes the good vibes will carry over into its doubleheader against in-state and conference rival Illinois on Wednesday.

The Wildcats (21-17, 9-5 Big Ten) have run into some misfortune recently after winning their first eight Big Ten games of the season. NU’s win over Nebraska (25-19, 12-5) snapped a six-game losing streak, which included a sweep by the then-No. 15 Minnesota Golden Gophers (37-7, 12-3) and a heartbreaking walk-off loss to then-No. 25 Notre Dame (37-11, 16-5 ACC).

With the Fighting Illini now ahead of the Cats in the Big Ten standings, Wednesday’s doubleheader becomes much more important for coach Kate Drohan’s team.

“The timing of this (series) is interesting,” Drohan said. “The fun thing about the Big Ten is that every game is important … (Illinois is) a great rival of ours, and we’re excited about our win on Sunday and looking to get on a roll again.”

Freshman catcher Sammy Nettling agreed with Drohan, emphasizing that not everything is about the standings.

“From a confidence standpoint, I thought that Sunday’s big win against Nebraska was definitely the boost that we needed,” Nettling said. “We know we haven’t been playing well lately, but this series is huge, not just for the standings, but for getting back to the way we want to play.”

Throughout Drohan’s 14-year tenure as coach, NU has been known for playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Junior pitcher Kristen Wood admitted it is sometimes difficult to stay positive during a rough patch, although she is confident the Cats can pull through.

“We come together as a team and we talk about it,” Wood said. “We know that we’re always going to play for each other and we’ll get back into our winning streak.”

Drohan didn’t quite agree with her emerging ace, but conceded that one of the biggest challenges in all of sports is to maintain confidence throughout a season.

“Our team is on-board with the schedule that we play,” Drohan said. “It’s done nothing but help us for these (big) moments.”

Wood pitched twice in the series against Nebraska, turning in two very different performances. Nettling, who caught Wood in both games, said if NU wants to stretch its winning streak then Wood has to keep cranking out quality starts.

Nettling also praised Wood for the mental adjustments she made between the weekend starts, especially since she didn’t think Wood had her best stuff on Friday.

In Drohan’s mind, the biggest distinctions between Wood’s starts were not only her mentality, but also her command.

“I thought she was very sharp on Sunday,” Drohan said emphatically of Wood. “She was very aggressive, and I liked the way she got her off-speed going by the end of the game … I really liked the toughness she showed on Sunday.”

One of the biggest problems against Nebraska was the inability to stop the big inning, and Wood knows a big part of that falls on her shoulders. But after her performance on Sunday, she is confident in what she needs to do against Illinois.

“In the Nebraska series those innings were more of me not being able to find the strike zone,” Wood said. “Going in there and hammering the strike zone against (Illinois) is definitely going to be key.”

Wood and the Cats begin their Wednesday doubleheader against the Fighting Illini at 2 p.m. at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

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