Softball: Northwestern gets Kentucky in NCAA Regional opener

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor


At last, Twitter got the matchup it was hoping for, albeit in a different sport.

To determine who is truly the Wildest of Cats, Northwestern (28-21, 14-8 Big Ten) will face Kentucky (29-24, 5-19 SEC) on Friday in the opening game of their NCAA Regional bracket. NU will also face host No. 16 Notre Dame (40-13, 17-6 ACC) and Ball State (33-23, 14-5 MAC) in its opening double elimination regional.

NU and Kentucky, which share the mascot Wildcats, have never met on the softball field before. The last time the like-named universities opposed each other in any sport was on the weekend of Nov. 7 last year in a women’s swimming meet.

Evanston’s Cats played against both the Cardinals and Fighting Irish earlier this season. Junior pitcher Kristen Wood no-hit Ball State on March 8 while NU fell in a walk-off loss to Notre Dame on April 15.

After starting the regular season 3-9, Kate Drohan’s Cats went 25-12 and finished fourth in the Big Ten standings thanks to beginning conference play 8-0 with sweeps of Penn State, Wisconsin and Purdue. Their Big Ten season ended Saturday, falling to Michigan 9-0 in five innings in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Meanwhile, the Cats of Lexington come into NCAA Regionals having played the second strongest schedule in the country, in part due to 11 of the SEC’s 13 teams ranking in the top 33 for RPI. Florida, LSU and Auburn are the top three teams in the country.

Following Wood’s no-hitter, Ball State finished its regular season 19-11 and won the MAC West Division title. The Cardinals coasted to the MAC Tournament Championship Game, defeating Western Michigan 11-3 in 6 innings for their third championship in program history and first since 2010.

The tournament victory gave Ball State an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.

The best team in NU’s regional bracket is Notre Dame, which finished the season ranked 19th in RPI. Despite clinching the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament, the Fighting Irish were upset by the Cinderella-team Pittsburgh Panthers in the first round 8-1. No. 6 seed Pitt advanced to the ACC Finals but succumbed to Florida State 6-2.

Drohan’s squad also received good news Thursday when six players earned NFCA All-Region honors, matching the school record set in 2007.

All-Big Ten first team shortstop Andrea Filler was also named to the Great Lakes All-Region first team. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sabrina Rabin made the second team in addition to Wood and senior outfielder Andrea DiPrima, while third team honorees included senior first baseman Julia Kuhn and junior Amy Letourneau, who received designated player/utility honors.

The South Bend Regional begins at 1 p.m. Friday with the first softball Wildcat vs. Wildcat matchup.

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