The last time Northwestern played in Norman, Oklahoma, the Wildcats watched Oklahoma celebrate as the Sooners dominated en route to the College World Series.
With aspirations of making a trip of their own to Oklahoma City this year, NU (8-11) returned to Norman this weekend for the Courtyard Marriott Tournament. And, while they shined against non-Power Five teams, their two weekend losses to No. 5 Oklahoma showed that, despite being close, the Cats have some work to do to be competitive against some of the best in the country.
NU is now 1-8 against top-25 teams so far this season, with its lone win coming a few weeks ago against then-No. 5 Florida State.
“We talked a lot about the physicality of the game and building some better habits around the game and taking care of the little things,” coach Kate Drohan said. “I think our team is still working on it and we still have room to grow there.”
In the team’s first game against North Texas, sophomore pitcher Danielle Williams stole the show as both a pitcher and a hitter. On the mound, the sophomore pitched a complete game, giving up one run while striking out 12.
At the plate, she helped herself out as well, adding two hits to her line including a two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Cats won their opening game 8-1.
But the biggest challenge for NU was the Sooners, who came into the weekend with a 11-3 record.
In 26 innings against Oklahoma last year, the Cats didn’t score a single run. But Friday they broke through in the third inning and knotted the game at two after getting down early. However, the Sooners responded for five runs in the bottom of the frame to break the game open.
But the 8-3 score doesn’t represent how close the game was. NU outhit Oklahoma and didn’t strike out once, but they couldn’t capitalize with runners in scorer’s position and the Sooners did.
But with Saturday’s games against Abilene Christian, it was a completely different story. Led by sophomore shortstop Maeve Nelson, the Cats scored 15 runs in their two games on Saturday. Nelson hit four home runs on the weekend, including three on Saturday to push NU over the top in their back-to-back 5-1 and 10-1 victories.
“I’ve really been emphasizing lately swinging 50 percent, which sounds kinda counterintuitive, but it’s a 50 percent mentality,” Nelson said. “Just so I don’t swing too hard and I’m not trying to do too much because that’s when things kind of go south.”
Nelson said going into Sunday, she felt the team had a good chance to beat Oklahoma this time around, given how many times they had faced off in the past year.
But, like the first game, the Sooners got the best of NU despite the game being close. The Cats held the lead early off a double from outfielder Morgan Newport. Williams was cruising through Oklahoma’s lineup until the fifth inning, when the Sooners scored five runs and put the game away.
With a losing record and conference play looming, the Cats will have one more opportunity to play quality non-conference opponents before Big Ten play begins. However, Nelson is confident the team can turn it around.
“There have been a couple times where we’ve been caught not playing Northwestern softball,” Nelson said. “If we keep doing us, keep playing how we know how to play, there are only good things ahead for us.”