Softball: Northwestern rallies for 2 comeback wins, sweeps Rutgers


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Sammy Nettling looks to take off from first base. The senior catcher hit a 3-RBI triple to cap off the Wildcats’ dramatic comeback over Rutgers on Sunday.

Andrew Golden, Reporter


Down to its final three outs, Northwestern was looking for life down by six runs.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Wildcats exploded for seven.

NU mashed 4 home runs, including three straight to open the inning, and added a three-run triple to complete a sweep of Rutgers. The series win against the Scarlet Knights (17-26, 2-12 Big Ten) was the Cats’ (29-13, 11-5) fourth in conference this season.

In the first contest on Friday, NU dominated in all aspects of the game. The Cats scored 15 runs on 16 hits and freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey gave up one run in five innings.

Wilkey pitched in all three games and now has seven straight wins and 15 total for the season. Coach Kate Drohan said Wilkey is stepping up for NU on the mound.

“Kenna pitched tough,” Drohan said. “We’re asking a lot of her right now and she’s tough. She’s faced a lot of adversity in these games.”

In the second and third games on Saturday and Sunday, the Cats faced some trouble and were losing going into the seventh inning. But both times, NU scored seven runs in the last inning to beat the Scarlet Knights.

The Cats, including this weekend’s games, now boast four Big Ten victories when trailing by at least two runs in the seventh, with their other two wins coming earlier in the season against Minnesota.

Drohan said her team showed a lot of fight and resilience.

“What we witnessed in the seventh inning of each of the last two games is pretty unique,” Drohan said. “It’s pretty exciting to watch, nobody tried to do it by themselves and everyone said, ‘What can I do to help the team?’”

In the second game, down 5-3, NU tied the game up on a single from senior shortstop Marissa Panko. The team then scored four more runs, capped off by freshman second baseman Rachel Lewis’ three-run double down the left field line, to give the Cats the lead and insurance on it.

On Sunday, Panko, senior catcher Sammy Nettling and first baseman junior Lily Novak got NU back in the game with solo home runs to cut the deficit to 7-4. After Rutgers got two outs, freshman third baseman Mac Dunlap gave the Cats life once again with NU’s 4th home run of the inning.

After two walks and a single loaded the bases, Nettling once again came through for NU with a three-run triple down the right field line to give the visitors a 8-7 lead.

The home runs by Panko, Novak and Dunlap — three of the four players who were part of the comeback — were the first of their respective careers, giving every NU starter at least 1 home run so far this season.

Drohan said despite the fact that they hit 4 home runs, their focus in the inning was to hit line drives.

“Our plan going into that inning was, honestly, to get on top of the ball,” Drohan said. “We had been popping up a lot of them in the innings before. … The home runs, that was the result of not necessarily trying to hit home runs, but we focused on hitting the ball really well.”

The coach said the Cats will focus on being better defensively, specifically in the first inning, moving forward. However, Drohan said NU nonetheless learned a lot about itself this weekend.

“It showed that we had a lot of fight in us,” Drohan said. “We’re going to fight each and every game.”

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