Softball: Wildcats fall to Minnesota in Big Ten semifinals

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Softball: Wildcats fall to Minnesota in Big Ten semifinals

Brooke Marquez makes contact with the ball. The sophomore second baseman was 2-for-3 with an RBI in Friday’s win over Ohio State.

Brooke Marquez makes contact with the ball. The sophomore second baseman was 2-for-3 with an RBI in Friday’s win over Ohio State.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Brooke Marquez makes contact with the ball. The sophomore second baseman was 2-for-3 with an RBI in Friday’s win over Ohio State.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Brooke Marquez makes contact with the ball. The sophomore second baseman was 2-for-3 with an RBI in Friday’s win over Ohio State.

Melissa Haniff, Reporter

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Northwestern fought hard against one of its toughest conference opponents, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

After beating Ohio State (33-18-1, 13-9-1 Big Ten) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats (26-26, 15-8) lost in the semifinals to face a familiar foe, No. 23 Minnesota (41-12, 19-3).

Before the Cats could face the Golden Gophers, however, they had to beat a tough Buckeye squad on Friday.

NU scored early and held on tight to its lead, with senior shortstop Andrea Filler and sophomore catcher Sammy Nettling bringing in RBIs to secure a 2-0 lead in the first. Sophomore second baseman Brooke Marquez would bring another run in, and although the Cats wouldn’t score again, their defense stayed hot and kept the Buckeyes at bay.

Ohio State scored in the fourth inning to bring the score to 3-1, but the Buckeyes couldn’t muster enough of a rally to get past their early deficit.

Coach Kate Drohan credited the team’s seniors in providing the enthusiasm and grit needed to secure a first-round win in the tournament.

“I really feel as though our seniors stepped up, and they kept fighting hard to put our team in the position to win (Friday),” Drohan said. “The ownership they took down the stretch was a difference maker for us.”

Despite the win Friday, the Cats fell behind early in the first inning Saturday, as Minnesota’s ace pitcher, Sara Groenewegen, smashed a 3-run homer to left field. Down 3, Filler brought in an RBI at the bottom of the inning, eventually followed by an RBI from senior pitcher Amy Letourneau.

Minnesota then opened the second inning with another dinger, but the Cats began to rally. Sophomore centerfielder Sabrina Rabin brought in another run with a single to centerfield to keep the game within 1. The Golden Gophers, however, would begin to pull away in the third, scoring 4 runs over three innings to win 8-4.

Although the loss ended NU’s run in the Big Ten Tournament, Rabin said she was proud of how the team fought against a formidable opponent.

“We really battled out there and took things one pitch at a time,” Rabin said. “We made some really great plays but just didn’t have that big inning to push us ahead.”

With the Cats’ run in the Big Ten Tournament now over, the team will look ahead to the NCAA Tournament where it will face Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Regional Bracket in Athens, Georgia.

NU has had a high RPI most of the season due to its tough strength of schedule, which helped it reach the tournament despite just a .500 record. The Cats had a huge win against a ranked Minnesota team in the regular season and beat perennial powerhouse No. 2 Michigan by a score of 13-12 in conference play. Additionally, the Cats defeated then-No. 11 UCLA early this season.

Before the selection, both Drohan and Rabin said they were confident the team’s season would speak for itself.

“There are a couple things that really stand out, how we finished and our strength of schedule,” Drohan said. “We had some signature wins against some top-20 programs and that really sets us apart from a lot of the teams we’re playing against right now.”

Email: melissahaniff2016@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @melissahaniff

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