Softball: Northwestern sweeps Iowa aside in dominant series


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Kenzie Ellis fires from the circle. The freshman pitcher pitched in all three games against Iowa this weekend.

Cole Paxton, Reporter


Northwestern brought its bats all weekend long, but come Sunday afternoon the brooms were out as well.

The Wildcats (14-20, 5-4 Big Ten) drove in runs in a variety of ways, capitalizing on 8 home runs and also using some small ball en route to a series sweep of Iowa (9-26, 1-10) on a cool and wet weekend in Evanston.

NU totaled 28 runs across the three games but had just one big inning, a 6-spot in the second inning of Saturday’s first game, a contest that was moved from Friday because of field conditions. The Cats did consistent damage throughout the series, scoring in 11 separate innings across the weekend.

“At this point in our season every game is important,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Iowa is a really good team and they’ve really come on lately and their bats are hot. … There were some pivotal moments in the game where we needed to really break it open, today and throughout the weekend.”

Senior pitcher Amy Letourneau led the Cats’ offensive efforts, knocking 3 home runs and totaling 11 RBIs Saturday. Her 8 RBIs in the first game tied a school record Letourneau had matched once before in February.

Letourneau also made her mark in the circle in NU’s 13-9 series-opening win, striking out 11 in 5.2 innings. Though she allowed 7 runs, only 4 were earned.

“It just felt good,” Letourneau said of her weekend. “I don’t know if it was anything I did, if it was anything different. It just felt good to get out there with the team.”

Letourneau hit 1 of 3 Cats’ homers in Saturday’s second contest, but freshman pitcher Kenzie Ellis played arguably the biggest role in NU’s 6-5 victory. She shut out the Hawkeyes for the first 5 frames before running into trouble in the late innings.

Iowa scored all 5 of its runs in the final two innings against Ellis, who allowed just 5 hits in 6.2 innings. Fellow freshman pitcher Kaley Winegarner recorded the final out with the tying run aboard.

Ellis, who allowed 19 runs in 7 innings of work against Minnesota in a series loss last weekend, pitched in all three games against the Hawkeyes. In contrast to her performances against Minnesota, the freshman pitched the final 1.1 innings in the first game and went 2.1 scoreless innings in Sunday’s 9-5 win.

“I always have confidence just feeding my defense,” Ellis said, adding that preseason work prepared her to pitch in a variety of situations. “Having them behind me and a lot of the senior leadership has really helped me throughout the entire season.”

Despite the sweep, the Cats were far from flawless, particularly when it came to pitching. Iowa hit 6 home runs in the series and tallied 11 hits in the series opener. NU also committed 4 errors.

In the fifth inning of Saturday’s first game, for example, a dropped pop-up with two outs allowed 1 Hawkeye run to come home, and a home run two batters later scored 2 more and brought Iowa within 1.

The Cats nonetheless took care of business and have won four straight games for the first time all season. Although Iowa sits dead last in the conference, Ellis said the sweep was still important.

“It’s great to just get three wins under our belt,” Ellis said. “We really needed those wins.”

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