Softball: Northwestern sweeps No. 22 Ohio State in rain-shortened series


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Marissa Panko dances off second base. The senior shortstop had five hits over the weekend.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Reporter


Northwestern faced a tall task this weekend hosting No. 22 Ohio State, but the Wildcats’ biggest challenge came from Mother Nature.

NU’s offense sizzled as the Cats (25-13, 8-5 Big Ten) won a pair of games against the Buckeyes (26-10, 7-6), 10-2 on Friday and 14-6 on Sunday. Both games ended after six innings due to the 8-run rule. Saturday’s game was canceled due to inclement weather, while Friday and Sunday were played in less-than-ideal conditions.

Freshman second baseman Rachel Lewis and junior left fielder Morgan Nelson each hit 2 home runs on the weekend. But the Cats showed they can score in other ways as well, especially on Sunday, when they scored three times on bases-loaded walks and 5 more runs on productive outs.

“There are a lot of different ways that our offense can attack,” coach Kate Drohan said. “I looked up at the scoreboard; at one point, we had scored 7 runs with three hits. That just gives you an idea of how our speed can put pressure on a defense.”

In Friday’s opener, freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey shut out Ohio State through the first three innings and helped her own cause in the second with a run-scoring single. Nelson doubled NU’s advantage in the third with a solo home run to center field.

The Buckeyes got to Wilkey for a game-tying 2-run homer in the fourth, but the Cats put on a power display of their own in the fifth against Ohio State pitcher Shelby McCombs. Lewis hit a 2-run blast to left, and Nelson followed with her second homer of the game. NU then put the game away with a 5-run sixth.

“My main focus was just hitting the ball,” Nelson said. “McCombs pitches so hard that you don’t have to generate a lot of your own power.”

Wilkey got the start again for the Cats on Sunday, but this time was shaky from the outset, spotting Ohio State 4 runs in the first. Lewis got the NU comeback started in the bottom half of the inning with her 14th home run of the season, and the Cats would not stop scoring from there.

Senior shortstop Marissa Panko, who is 7-for-9 in three games since being moved down to fifth in the lineup, hit a pair of doubles and reached base in all four of her plate appearances. Senior right fielder Brooke Marquez doubled and singled, and also drove in 2 runs.
The offensive explosion helped Wilkey settle down, and she allowed just 2 runs over the next five innings after falling behind 4-0 early.

For the Cats, it was a much-needed series win after dropping two of three last weekend against Purdue. NU is currently tied for fourth in the Big Ten, which would give the Cats a first-round bye in the conference tournament if the current standings hold.

“I’m really proud of the way our team battled,” Drohan said. “I love coming to practice every day with this team; they’re very coachable, they’re very hungry, so that makes it really fun.”

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