Softball: Wildcats overpowered by Notre Dame in ugly loss


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Lily Novak swings at a pitch. The sophomore infielder and the Wildcats were blown out by Notre Dame on Tuesday.

Evan Augeri, Reporter


Northwestern struggled Tuesday afternoon in its final non-conference game of the season, a 10-2 run-rule loss to Notre Dame that ended after 5 innings.

The Wildcats (20-24, 6-9 Big Ten) gave up a three-run home run in the first inning, and a costly two-out error in the second allowed another run to score. Then, the Fighting Irish (28-18) added to their lead in the third inning with a second three-run home run, creating an 8-0 deficit for NU.

“A lot of parts of our game broke down today,” coach Kate Drohan said. “We gave them a lot of baserunners, and then they capitalized with a few long balls, and that adds up pretty fast.”

After throwing 14 scoreless innings in her last three appearances, sophomore pitcher Kaley Winegarner took the loss for the Cats, allowing 4 earned runs on two hits in 1.2 innings.

In the middle of the second inning, she was replaced by senior Nicole Bond, who worked out of her counterpart’s jam. But the change worked to little avail; after allowing the Fighting Irish’s second homer in the third inning, she herself was replaced by freshman Morgan Newport, who threw the final two innings for NU.

“We needed to change the momentum, the energy, the look that they were seeing, all of it,” Drohan said. “We put Nicole in to see if we could get some more pop-ups with the rise ball. We put Newport in so she could pound the strike zone and really challenge them.”

On the offense, the Cats’ lineup was unable to muster much. It took until the third inning for NU to record its first hit, and despite reaching base nine times, the team left five runners aboard in the shortened game.

Senior infielder Alcy Bush scored both of NU’s runs. She drew a walk to lead off the third inning and scored on a groundout by junior infielder Marissa Panko, then later hit a solo shot to left-centerfield in the fifth.

The home run was Bush’s second in her last four games and the sixth of her career.

“Right now I’m executing my plan on the pitches I want to execute it on,” Bush said. “Today, I wanted to swing at the changeup, and I did, and it worked out.”

The loss leaves the Cats fighting a steep uphill battle for a postseason berth. NU must win six of its eight remaining contests to reach a .500 record and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Drohan, who has reached the tournament 11 times in her 15 years coaching the Cats, said the team must correct its mistakes from the loss if it hopes to achieve the feat.

“We certainly have to play a whole lot better than we did today if we’re going to give ourselves a fighting chance here,” Drohan said. “But I think it comes down to pitching and defense. That’s what matters this time of year. … We’ve got keep ourselves in these ballgames.”

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