Softball: After lightning delay, Northwestern rallies past DePaul


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Morgan Nelson hits the ball. Nelson hit a 3-run home run that gave Northwestern the lead for good on Wednesday.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Reporter


CHICAGO — Northwestern had not won at DePaul since 2006, so waiting another hour seemed like nothing.

Wednesday’s game was delayed by lightning in the middle of the third inning. After spotting the Blue Demons 2 runs immediately after the game’s resumption, the Wildcats (33-14, 13-6 Big Ten) rallied for 3 in the fifth and 4 more in the sixth to claim a 7-3 victory over DePaul (30-15, 12-3 Big East).

NU had at least one baserunner in each of the first four innings, but could not come up with a timely hit. With two outs in the fifth, the Cats conjured up a big three-run homer. Junior left fielder Morgan Nelson hit a line drive that carried over the left field wall, and suddenly a 2-0 NU deficit had become a 3-2 lead.

“(The home run) changed the whole feel of the game, it changed the way we were playing,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Sometimes that’s what the game takes. We did a nice job of settling down and we had some really tough at-bats.”

The Cats put together another rally in the sixth inning, scoring four times on five hits. Senior shortstop Marissa Panko led off with a single and scored all the way from first when freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey doubled into the gap in left-center. A pinch runner then scored on a hit by senior right fielder Brooke Marquez, and the Cats added two more in the inning on a groundout by senior center fielder Sabrina Rabin and a single up the middle by Nelson.

The offensive outburst made a winner out of sophomore pitcher Morgan Newport, who gave up 2 runs on four hits over four solid innings. Wilkey pitched the final three innings, allowing just one unearned run to notch the save.

“Before the rain delay, we were kind of tense, and as soon as we got the lead, we loosened up,” Nelson said. “We started playing loose and free. We’ve just got to figure out how to do that in the first inning.”

Newport allowed the first two Blue Demons to reach base in the first but retired the next three to escape. In the second, she was bailed out when senior catcher Sammy Nettling threw out a runner trying to steal third.

She showed some signs of rust upon returning to the circle in the third following the delay, but limited the damage to 2 runs before throwing a scoreless fourth inning, keeping her team in the game and giving NU time to come back.

“DePaul’s a great hitting team, and I was just trying to be aggressive and pound the strike zone and trust my defense behind me, especially after the delay,” Newport said. “I was really proud of the way we battled today.”

Wilkey came on in the fifth and needed just 38 pitches to get through three innings, keeping her fresh for a series this weekend at Wisconsin. She secured the Cats’ 11th win in their last 12 games and 24th win in their last 30. NU also completed a sweep of its Chicago area rivals, having beaten Illinois-Chicago back in March and Loyola just last Wednesday.

“Our team handled (the delay) wonderfully,” Drohan said. “I thought they battled hard, I thought they gave it their all. I think they had great focus for a Wednesday afternoon game.”

Twitter: @bxrosenberg