Softball: Northwestern looks to ride winning streak to NCAA Tournament

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Softball: Northwestern looks to ride winning streak to NCAA Tournament

Kenzie Ellis fires a pitch. The freshman pitcher will look to help shut down Loyola University Chicago  in Northwestern’s final home game of the season.

Kenzie Ellis fires a pitch. The freshman pitcher will look to help shut down Loyola University Chicago in Northwestern’s final home game of the season.

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Kenzie Ellis fires a pitch. The freshman pitcher will look to help shut down Loyola University Chicago in Northwestern’s final home game of the season.

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Kenzie Ellis fires a pitch. The freshman pitcher will look to help shut down Loyola University Chicago in Northwestern’s final home game of the season.

Marty Johnson, Reporter

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For Northwestern’s seven seniors, Wednesday’s matchup against Loyola University Chicago will be the last time they play at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. But that isn’t what they or the team are focused on.

Rather, the Wildcats (19-23, 10-7 Big Ten) are focused on getting their record to .500 to increase their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

“We all know we need to win,” senior pitcher Amy Letourneau said.

The Cats got back in the win column this weekend as they  swept Michigan State, a showing that could give the team momentum as it heads into the home stretch of the season.

“This weekend was really big for us,” senior shortstop Andrea Filler said.

NU was strong on both sides of the ball as it outscored the Spartans 22-6 over the weekend. A big boost for the Cats came in the form of senior pitcher Kristen Wood, who returned this weekend from injury.

Wood pitched spectacularly in her two starts. In eight total innings pitched, Wood allowed only 3 runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Wood picked up wins in both starts as well.

“It was nice to get Kristen Wood back,” said Letourneau, who also had a successful weekend pitching. “We’re very different pitchers and we work well together and we’ve been doing it for four years.”

Letourneau pitched a complete game to pick up the win Saturday and then came on in relief of Wood on Sunday, getting her third save of the season. She pitched a total of 10 innings, giving up 3 runs on six hits with 11 strikeouts.

After being a part of the program for five years, Letourneau said the finality of her last home game has hit her.

But with work still to be done this season, Filler said she isn’t dwelling on the emotions of the moment.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling playing at home, but it’s not my last game,” Filler said. “I think it’ll hit me more once I play my final regular season game.”

The Cats’ season will indeed continue after Wednesday’s game against the Ramblers (20-22, 4-14 MVC). Although their last seven games are on the road, the Cats said they have a chance to win all of their final contests. The team’s remaining opponents are Wisconsin, DePaul and Purdue.

Combined, the three teams have a .533 winning percentage, not much higher than the Cats’ .452 winning percentage, and both Wisconsin and Purdue are behind the Cats in the Big Ten standings.

Filler said although the team has enjoyed the recent lengthy homestand, it is ready to face the challenge of ending the season on the road.

“We were on the road the first five weeks during the preseason, so we’re kind of conditioned to play on the road,” Filler said.

But before NU hits the road to conclude the season, it has to face the Ramblers. Loyola has a comparable record to the Cats, but the Ramblers have struggled in conference play, going 4-14. Loyola has also had difficulties as of late going 2-8 in its past 10 games. In these 10 games, the team has averaged under 2 runs per game and has been shutout three times.

Although the pressure to win may be on, the Cats said they are taking a more relaxed approach.

“We’re looking for wins and to go out and have fun,” Letourneau said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Kristen Wood’s name. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: martinjohnson2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @rick_and_MARTY

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