Softball: Wildcats win two against Hawkeyes in last regular season series

Melissa Haniff, Reporter


Softball


Northwestern closed out its dominant regular season with two wins and a close loss to Iowa in Iowa City this weekend.

The two wins bring the Wildcats (27-20, 14-8 Big Ten) to fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Even with Sunday’s loss, NU secured a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament after Illinois fell to Nebraska in its Sunday matchup.

Although the Cats were able to pull out two solid wins, the Hawkeyes (17-39, 8-15) played spoiler in Sunday’s matchup, scoring fast and holding on to their early lead.

Game one was dominated by pitching from both sides. Junior pitcher Kristen Wood, who had eight strikeouts, and Hawkeyes pitcher Shayla Starkenburg kept the opposing offenses at bay, each allowing five hits or less through the first matchup. In the fourth inning, senior first baseman Julia Kuhn hit a home run to left center field, giving the Cats a 1-0 win.

Strong defensive plays from junior shortstop Andrea Filler and senior third baseman Anna Edwards kept the Hawkeyes from rallying while Wood battled Iowa’s batters on the mound. Filler noted that the team worked well together, a sentiment echoed by Kuhn.

“We did a really good job backing up our pitchers,” Filler said. “They weren’t the most clean games but we definitely picked each other up when we were out there.”

Saturday and Sunday’s games were dominated by offensive play, with the Cats scoring a combined 17 runs throughout the two.

The Saturday game began with three straight singles from freshman centerfielder Sabrina Rabin, senior right fielder Andrea DiPrima and Filler, loading the bases for an RBI after a Sammy Nettling groundout. Kuhn followed with a 2-run double, opening the floodgates for the Cats.

Kuhn, who had a career weekend with six hits and five RBI, remained focused in the batter’s box throughout the series.

“I just really wanted to make the pitchers throw more pitches,” Kuhn said. “They were kind of all over the zone and it was all about making them come to me and being patient.”

Although the Hawkeyes began to rally in the fourth, NU held off Iowa’s batters with quick, sharp defensive play by Filler and strong pitching from senior Olivia Duehr. The game ended 11-6 in favor of the Cats.

NU came from behind in the last matchup, scrapping for 4 runs in the fifth and sixth innings in an effort to catch up with the Hawkeyes. The rally wasn’t enough, as Iowa came out on top by a score of 8-6.

Even with the loss, Filler and Kuhn remain hopeful the Cats can use momentum from the series looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament.

“We want to continue to play as a team and play one pitch at a time as a team,” Filler said. “We always bring our fight to every single game, no matter if we’re up or down.”

The Cats begin Big Ten Tournament play on Friday in Columbus, Ohio, where they will face the winner of Thursday’s opening round game between No. 5 seed Illinois and No. 12 Purdue.

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