Softball: Northwestern looks to continue winning ways at Purdue


Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Marissa Panko looks to take off from third base. The senior shortstop is hitting .321 in conference play so far this season.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Reporter


Coming off a pair of comeback wins in a series victory against Nebraska, Northwestern will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend looking to stay hot in a three-game series at Purdue.

The Wildcats (22-11, 5-3 Big Ten) are led by a balanced offense that ranks third in the Big Ten with a .288 batting average and leads the conference in stolen bases. NU has been showing more power this season as well. After hitting just 14 home runs all of last year, the Cats have already hit 23 this season.

The top of the lineup has been driving NU’s offensive production. Senior center fielder Sabrina Rabin is hitting .517 in conference play and senior shortstop Marissa Panko is hitting .321. Freshman second baseman Rachel Lewis is hitting .308 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in eight conference games.

Junior left fielder Morgan Nelson, the team’s cleanup hitter, has frequently been the beneficiary of her teammates’ work. Nelson is second on the team behind Lewis with 21 RBIs and six home runs this season after hitting just two homers all of last year.

“Sabrina, Panko and then Rachel, they’re always getting on base and that just makes it easier,” Nelson said. “Especially with Rachel in front of me, I think that’s motivating me too because this freshman has all this power, and I’m so happy for her and I want to join in.”

The Cats have relied largely on two pitchers, freshman Kenna Wilkey and sophomore Morgan Newport, in recent weeks, but senior Nicole Bond has turned in some quality work as well. She threw a complete game last Saturday against Nebraska, allowing just four hits in NU’s victory.

Bond got the start again on Sunday but struggled, allowing four earned runs in 1.2 innings. Wilkey came on in the second and gave up just one run the rest of the way, giving the Cats’ offense time to orchestrate another comeback win.

Bond credits the cohesiveness of the pitching staff for helping her prepare to face a certain lineup.

“It’s really hard for a team to hit three pitchers, especially when we’re all working off of each other,” she said. “One of us is going to be hot one day, one of us is going to be cold, and there’s going to be times where they’re going to pick me up and I’m going to have to pick them up.”

The Boilermakers (8-27, 1-5) have struggled this season, and the Cats have swept them each of the past three years. They are hitting just .234 as a team and rank next to last in the Big Ten with a 4.94 team ERA.

That does not mean NU is taking Purdue lightly, however. Coach Kate Drohan said the Cats need to put pressure offensively on the Boilermakers’ defense and their pitchers need to control the game.

“Purdue is a well-coached team; they have improved a ton since the beginning of the season,” Drohan said. “We’ve got seven seniors who are doing a heck of a job leading this group, and their experience and their poise have really carried us, especially the start of this Big Ten season.”

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