Softball: Northwestern beats Notre Dame 8-3, tying single-game record for steals


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Sammy Nettling runs to third base. The senior catcher had one hit and 2 RBIs in NU’s 8-3 win over Notre Dame Wednesday.

Andrew Golden, Reporter


In a Wednesday game between out-of-conference rivals, Northwestern beat Notre Dame 8-3 for its first win against the Fighting Irish since 2013.

After the Wildcats (26-13, 8-5 Big Ten) scored a run in the first inning, Notre Dame’s offense responded by loading the bases in the first two innings. Even though the Fighting Irish (28-16, 11-6 ACC) scored 2 runs in the bottom of the second inning, freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey worked out of trouble, leaving five runners on base.

That was the last time Notre Dame had a lead over NU. Wilkey pitched the rest of the game, giving up only 1 run, while the Cats scored 7.

Wilkey has pitched the last 29 innings for the Cats, spanning all the way back to their weekend series against Purdue on April 7. During that stretch, she threw 546 pitches and got NU’s last 87 outs.

Wilkey said she has become accustomed to the pressure as the season has progressed.

“I would definitely say I’m more comfortable because I’m getting more used to being out on the mound in crucial situations,” Wilkey said. “I’ve been through a lot of it already and I’m still learning as I go.”

As Wilkey thrived on the pitching mound, the Cats had a record-tying day on the basepaths.

They tied the school record for steals in a game with eight. Four of those came from senior center fielder Sabrina Rabin, who tied her own single-game record for steals.

Rabin said any of her teammates can steal bases, but she works to set the tone for the rest of the team.

“I think everyone on the team can hold their own,” Rabin said. “But I know I need to do my job, and my job is to run the bases and score runs.”

Rabin, who reached base in all four of her plate appearances in the game, got the Cats started in the first as she singled, stole second base and scored on a Notre Dame error to give NU a 1-0 lead.

Coach Kate Drohan said Rabin’s speed gives opposing teams a challenge trying to get her out.

“Sabrina just makes everyone hurry,” Drohan said. “Even when she’s getting hits and even when she’s just making a ball bounce twice in the infield, people know they have to hurry and that, oftentimes, forces errors.”

In the top of the third inning with two outs, Rachel Lewis doubled to right field to start NU’s rally. The freshman second baseman was one of six straight batters who reached base.

After junior left fielder Morgan Nelson’s walk, senior catcher Sammy Nettling and senior shortstop Marissa Panko both had singles up the middle and gave NU a 4-2 lead. The Cats then scored another run to make it 5-2.

Drohan said the offense’s stretch of two-out hitting changed the team’s momentum.

“That was a big shift for the game,” Drohan said. “There have been a couple of times in the last couple of weeks (where) we’ve done a really good job of extending innings and keeping the pressure on.”

The Cats will now prepare for their weekend series against Rutgers, where they will look to keep winning heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

Drohan emphasized that NU has to continue to stick to its offensive identity and produce runs.

“I think our energy comes from our offensive production,” Drohan said. “That’s good pitch selection and putting the ball in play, so that’s what we will continue to work on.”

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