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Softball: Wildcats roll past UIC, set up weekend clash with Michigan

Anna+Petersen+takes+a+swing.+The+senior+outfielder+hit+a+home+run+in+the+Wildcats%E2%80%99+win+over+Illinois-Chicago+on+Wednesday.
Anna Petersen takes a swing. The senior outfielder hit a home run in the Wildcats’ win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday.

Anna Petersen takes a swing. The senior outfielder hit a home run in the Wildcats’ win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday.

Allie Goulding/The Daily Northwestern

Allie Goulding/The Daily Northwestern

Anna Petersen takes a swing. The senior outfielder hit a home run in the Wildcats’ win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday.

Allie Goulding, Assistant Photo Editor

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Softball


Northwestern is heading to Michigan with a boost of confidence.

A strong start and big third inning gave the Wildcats (13-16, 1-2 Big Ten) a big early lead, allowing them to coast to an easy 10-4 win over local rival Illinois-Chicago (16-16) on Wednesday at Drysdale Field.

Leading 10-0 after four innings, NU nearly closed out the game via the run rule, but the Flames plated a 4-spot in the fifth to extend the game. The Cats had more than enough margin for error, however, and eased to the victory.

“This win pumps us up and gets us ready for Michigan,” junior outfielder Marissa Panko said. “We’re just ready to go now. We got a taste of the wins, so we want to carry that out into the weekend.”

NU did the majority of its damage in the third. Senior outfielder Anna Petersen opened the inning with a home run, the start of a giant 7-run inning. The Cats plated several runs via small ball, using several walks, a hit by pitch and multiple UIC errors to extend the margin.

Though NU stumbled in the fifth, Petersen said the team’s play throughout the game offers positive signs ahead of the trip to No. 20 Michigan this weekend.

“You can look at the scoreboard and feel pressure that we didn’t end the game at five, but to see the way that (sophomore pitcher) Kenzie Ellis ended that game with so much poise and so much confidence … I think that was a big turning moment for our team,” Petersen said. “We’re going to come to this weekend ready to go, guns blazing.”

Ellis rebounded strongly from her rough fifth — sophomore pitcher Kaley Winegarner started and threw 4 shutout innings — by quickly setting down the side in order in each of the sixth and seventh innings.

The Cats, meanwhile, went relatively silent offensively after their third inning outburst. They failed to score in each of the last three frames, but the 10 runs NU plated tied its second highest output of the season.

“We were able to put up some big innings and that’s something we talked an awful lot about as a team, and I’m pleased with our execution,” coach Kate Drohan said. “We had very specific goals to accomplish today, working different people in different positions, specifically with our pitchers, and we got that done, along with putting 10 runs on the board.”

The win sets the Cats up well for their three games in Ann Arbor this weekend. Though Michigan represents the second consecutive ranked Big Ten opponent for NU, the Cats stole a win against the Wolverines last year.

The Cats are also rounding into form, having won five straight away from home and snagging a victory against then-No. 22 Wisconsin on Saturday. Coupled with Wednesday’s strong performance, NU is excited for its weekend challenge.

“Michigan is a great opponent obviously,” Petersen said. “They do everything well, but this is a great way to boost our confidence a little bit.”

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