Softball: Northwestern looks to build on momentum against Notre Dame


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Kaley Winegarner winds up for a pitch. The sophomore pitcher looks to lead the Wildcats to a win Tuesday against Notre Dame.

Evan Augeri, Reporter


Riding a four-game winning streak, Northwestern will face another strong non-conference opponent Tuesday afternoon when it meets Notre Dame.

With a three-game sweep of Purdue over the weekend, the Wildcats (20-23, 6-9 Big Ten) inched ahead in the Big Ten standings and came the closest to a .500 record they’ve been all season. But the Fighting Irish (27-18) head to Evanston tied for the ACC’s third-best overall record, behind only North Carolina and No. 2 Florida State.

“They’re a very talented team,” NU coach Kate Drohan said. “At this time of year, especially with each of us battling it out in our own respective conferences, it’s about showing up … and showing poise.”

Notre Dame will seek redemption after being outscored 28-15 in three losses this weekend to Virginia, one of the weaker members of its conference. It had won 11 of its 12 previous conference matchups, including two against North Carolina, a team that has consistently received votes in the coaches poll this season.

Senior outfielder Anna Petersen, the Cats’ leading power hitter, spoke of the urgency of taking the team’s schedule game by game as the regular season winds down.

“We know it’s going to be a tough one for us, and we have to approach it like it’s the biggest game of our season,” Petersen said. “It definitely feels good to be coming off of some wins, but we’re going to play the same way we always would.”

The Fighting Irish boast a .298 batting average and have hit 28 home runs collectively. That potency could pose a challenge to NU sophomore pitcher Kaley Winegarner, who is likely to see action in the game after resting in Sunday’s series finale.

Winegarner is coming off a dominant week in which she appeared in three of the Cats’ four games, earned two wins and a save and tallied 14 strikeouts in 14 scoreless innings.

She lowered her ERA to 2.54, the 10th-best in the Big Ten among eligible pitchers.

“Kaley has grown so much, this year especially,” Drohan said. “She’s getting better and better with each outing she has.”

NU has supported Winegarner and the rest of its pitching staff of late, both offensively and defensively. The Cats have scored 32 runs and made only three errors over the four-game winning streak.

Senior outfielder Krista Williams, who has batted .600 across that same stretch, said the positive momentum can be an asset for the Cats going forward.

“When things aren’t necessarily going our way, remembering the success we’ve had this weekend and against DePaul (last Wednesday) is going to be really important,” Williams said.

But Drohan said that momentum will bear no significance if NU doesn’t keep its focus on a postseason berth, which is slowly becoming a greater possibility as the Cats’ winning streak grows.

“We can’t look back, and we can’t look ahead,” she said. “I have a lot of belief in this team, a lot of faith in what we can do … but we’ve got to fight for it every pitch.”

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