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Softball: Northwestern looks forward to out-of-conference battle against Notre Dame

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Softball: Northwestern looks forward to out-of-conference battle against Notre Dame

Northwestern huddles between innings. The Wildcats will travel to South Bend, Indiana, for an important nonconference game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Northwestern huddles between innings. The Wildcats will travel to South Bend, Indiana, for an important nonconference game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Northwestern huddles between innings. The Wildcats will travel to South Bend, Indiana, for an important nonconference game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Northwestern huddles between innings. The Wildcats will travel to South Bend, Indiana, for an important nonconference game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Andrew Golden, Reporter

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After winning both games against now-No. 24 Ohio State last weekend, Northwestern is looking ahead to its matchup with Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Wednesday.

With the series win, the Wildcats (25-13, 8-5 Big Ten) have now won three straight games. In each of those three games, NU has scored 10 or more runs.

Senior shortstop Marissa Panko has been a large part of the team’s success at the plate. In just two games over the weekend, Panko went 5-for-6 with three doubles and two RBIs. Her performance in those games earned her Big Ten Player of the Week, the first Cats player to win the award since Rachel Lewis earlier in the season.

“It’s an honor,” Panko said. “There are so many teams in the Big Ten and a lot of girls are deserving of it, so it’s nice that they thought I was deserving of it.”

However, Panko wasn’t the only player who had a successful weekend.

The Cats put up 17 hits in the two games. Coach Kate Drohan said their success at this point in the season is a result of understanding their identity.

“We understand how our offense works,” Drohan said. “Our tools were there, but we understand that no one needs to do it by themselves and how to generate and score runs (in) a lot of different ways.”

NU will need their bats to step up against Notre Dame (28-15, 11-6), a team that has won five out of their last eight games.

The Fighting Irish’s key to success is pitching, as their staff has a 2.42 ERA, while their opponents have an 3.61 ERA against them.

The Cats will have to be prepared to face Notre Dame freshman pitcher Alexis Holloway, who is 16-10 with a 2.16 ERA and 142 strikeouts. Drohan said Holloway is really good at changing speeds and can throw her changeup at any time in the count.

Panko said NU will have to step up its game against the upcoming opponent to pull out a victory.

“Notre Dame is kind of a big rival for us that’s out of conference,” Panko said. “We enjoy playing them every year and we take it seriously. They’re a good team as well and this is a big game for us.”

The Cats have not won against Notre Dame since 2013, as they’ve lost their previous three meetings. Looking ahead, this game could have major implications for the NCAA Tournament, as NU is ranked 36th in RPI while Notre Dame is ranked 39th.

Drohan reiterated that while this game is not in-conference, it’s still very crucial.

“It’s an important game to our program,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of back-and-forth affairs over the years. We’ve faced each other a ton in the regionals, so this is one of the biggest games we’ve scheduled all year. We’re going after it to win it tomorrow.”

Email: andrewgolden2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @andrewcgolden

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