Softball: Northwestern looks to continue four-game win streak at Big Ten-ACC Challenge


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Kenzie Ellis prepares to hit. The junior pitcher and outfielder and the Wildcats look to pick up four wins this upcoming weekend.

Andrew Golden, Reporter


Northwestern looks to keep up its winning ways as it rides a four-game winning streak into Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Wildcats (4-1) are coming back from the Kajikawa Classic where they depended on veteran leadership, along with help from freshmen, to get off to a great start to their season. NU’s offense relied on getting off to quick starts to earn an advantage against its opponents, scoring in the first inning in four of five games.

Senior shortstop Marissa Panko said that starting games strong marked the difference between five-inning games — which end early due to the mercy rule — and seven-inning games over the weekend.

“We, more so than not, capitalized on the bases being loaded, and we scored runs when runners were on bases,” Panko said. “That’s something we’ve been working towards and something that was good to see in the games.”

The Cats put their big innings to use last weekend, closing out Boise State and South Dakota in five innings.

However, as well as they played offensively this weekend, coach Kate Drohan believes there is a lot more power in the offense we have not yet seen. She said that upcoming practices will make a big difference.

“I love this week of practice between the first week and the second week of the season,” Drohan said. “There are a lot of very specific things to improve on. I think the team is very energized to make those adjustments, to take the next step together.”

Drohan said NU will work to make specific adjustments with its mechanics to shore up its play defensively and on the mound.

Drohan hopes these changes will ultimately help the Cats win two double headers against Louisville (4-1) and North Carolina State (3-2) this weekend.

“Louisville is always tough and right now heading into this weekend, it’s time to separate ourselves from these two teams,” Drohan said. “We’ve kind of been around the same RPI the last few years, so it’s our opportunity to separate ourselves; it’s an important weekend for the Big Ten to do that as a whole.”

Drohan added that it will be a great atmosphere for the NC State game because it is practically a home game for the Wolfpack, but said that competing and battling on the road is a part of who NU is.

NC State put up big numbers offensively in its first five games as it scored 10 runs twice in the FGCU Kickoff Classic. The Cats’ pitching staff knows that it has to produce good outings to limit the offensive outbursts by the Wolfpack. Freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey said that the staff has to figure out where N.C. State’s weaknesses are offensively and attack them.

“(We’ll) see what their disadvantages are in the beginning and see what holds them back,” Wilkey said. “(We’ll) jump on them really quickly and keep it going throughout the game.”

Panko said that the road trip is a great opportunity for the team to gel with each other on the field and learn how they play together. Drohan agreed, adding she is excited about this weekend and what the future holds for the Cats.

“We’re excited about it. We’re excited about the opportunity,’ Drohan said. “As long as we keep playing physical softball, I think we will make things happen.”

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