Softball: Wildcats aim to improve consistency after 1-4 start to season
February 14, 2017
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After losing four of their five games to open the season, the Wildcats left Tucson, Arizona in agreement: They need to be more aggressive.
Northwestern (1-4) kicked off the Hillenbrand Invitational over the weekend with a 3-2 win against Tulsa (1-4), but subsequently suffered a series of hard-fought losses against tougher opponents. No. 21 Baylor (3-2) secured a close 7-6 win in extra innings, and No. 10 Arizona (5-0) defeated the Cats 11-3 in five frames.
Fordham (4-1) and Cal State Northridge (1-4) also turned in wins over NU, 4-3 and 7-5, respectively.
Coach Kate Drohan said the team showed promise in its ability to fight back during the games, but described the overall performance as “inconsistent.”
“We have a lot of room for growth between weekend one and weekend two,” Drohan said. “I saw some moments with our team that were excellent, but in the end … we put ourselves in a hole in a lot of the games and there were a lot of opportunities for us to shore up our game.”
Senior pitcher Nicole Bond made two appearances over the weekend, matching her total from last season. She fared well in a seven-inning start against Tulsa, earning the win but struggled against Arizona.
Sophomore infielder Morgan Nelson impressed in the batter’s box, tallying two home runs, four hits and 10 RBIs. Junior outfielder Sabrina Rabin, the Cats’ best contact hitter in 2016 with a .358 batting average, went 6-18.
With seven players from last year’s roster gone and three new additions in the mix, NU experimented with a new team dynamic on the field — something that takes some adjustment, Rabin said.
“We have a lot of talent, we just need to start working together as a team,” Rabin said. “We have a lot of speed in this order, we have a lot of good agility, mobility. I think we just need to use it.”
Rabin and Bond both said the team needs to be more aggressive for all seven innings, not just in spurts, in order to turn things around next weekend.
Bond said it’s best to identify areas for improvement early in the season before the start of Big Ten play. She said having the time to improve upon this past weekend will have a major impact down the road.
In preparation for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, where the Cats will take on No. 3 Florida State and newly-ranked No. 24 Pittsburgh, Drohan said the team will focus on taking it “one pitch at a time” in order to make solid adjustments for this coming weekend.
“A big strength of ours right now is that we’re healthy and we’re very athletic,” Drohan said. “It makes a work week like this week very productive.”