Softball: Northwestern wins three of four against Iowa with strong pitches, hits

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Angela Zedak takes a batting stance. Zedak hit two home runs over the weekend.

Nathan Ansell, Reporter


Softball


Extra-base hits. A late comeback. A grand slam. And a once-in-a-lifetime pitching performance. Last weekend, Northwestern’s series with Iowa had it all.

Strong performances from the mound and from behind the plate powered the Wildcats (21-7, 21-7 Big Ten) to three wins against the Hawkeyes (15-13, 15-13 Big Ten) this weekend, keeping NU at third place in the Big Ten. 

It all started on Friday, when junior pitcher Danielle Williams became the first NU pitcher since 2005 to throw a perfect game. She needed just 90 pitches to retire 21 Hawkeye batters.

Williams credited her teammates’ great defense in helping her achieve the fifth perfect game in Cats history.

“(My teammates) played outstanding,” Williams said. “I knew I could trust them the entire time.”

NU’s offense was electric as well on Friday. Graduate utility player Morgan Newport homered, junior catcher Jordyn Rudd went 3-for-4 from the plate and senior second baseman Rachel Lewis was a double away from hitting for the cycle. 

Lewis led the team with seven hits over the weekend.

“It’s her mentality,” coach Kate Drohan said. “She takes one on the chin, her chin’s split open, she puts a little piece of tape on it, she gets back on the field, no problem. That’s the kind of mentality we need leading our program.”

In the first of Saturday’s games, Iowa recorded a five-run first inning, eventually extending their lead to 7-1. But NU didn’t give in. 

The Cats responded with eight runs in two innings, including back-to-back home runs from junior shortstop Maeve Nelson and sophomore left fielder Angela Zedak. Williams pitched two more perfect innings to earn the save, striking out five Hawkeyes for a 9-7 win. 

“We looked at it one run at a time, one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time,” said Zedak, who had four extra-base hits during the series. “Break it down, make it smaller, try to score one run an inning. Soon enough, we were in front.”

The evening contest was a defensive battle at first, but the Cats broke the game open with consecutive run-scoring hits from Newport, Nelson, Zedak and sophomore pitcher Sydney Supple. Iowa’s defensive miscues in the sixth inning led to three more runs for NU, who would go on to claim a third straight victory by a score of 7-4.

Williams’ career streak of 28.2 scoreless innings against the Hawkeyes ended in the sixth inning, at which point Supple took over on the mound. 

“In true Danielle Williams fashion, she just does whatever the team needs her to do,” Drohan said. “Each weekend, she’s gotten tougher and tougher.”

The final game was a different story. Iowa’s Lindy Milkowski hit a grand slam in the first inning, and the Hawkeyes never relinquished the lead. Although Zedak homered for the second time in the series, the Cats only managed six hits, losing 5-2.

Even though NU couldn’t complete the sweep, the Cats rebounded from last weekend’s four losses against Minnesota. Zedak attributed part of the Cats’ success to mental toughness.

“The Minnesota series was definitely disappointing… but you can’t bring that into future games,” Zedak said. “It was like, ‘It happened. It sucked. It’s over, move on, focus on Iowa, go get the weekend.’ And that’s what we did.”

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Twitter: @NathanJAnsell

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