Softball: Northwestern falls to No. 1 Michigan over the weekend, creates a three-game losing streak

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Daily file by Joshua Hoffman

Junior pitcher Danielle Williams throws a pitch to a Minnesota batter at Drysdale Field. She earned 15 strikeouts in the Michigan series.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor


Softball


At the top of the third with the score tied 1-1 on Saturday, Northwestern needed a run. Luckily, junior catcher Jordyn Rudd was up at bat. 

She stepped up to the plate and smashed a home run in the second game of the day’s doubleheader. The junior gave Michigan senior Meghan Beaubien — the third best pitcher in the Big Ten — a run for her money in the series this weekend.

But even with the jaw dropping hit, No. 3 Wildcats (22-10, 22-10 Big Ten) lost three games in Ann Arbor. Rudd led the team with 5 RBIs and a homerun over the weekend. 

“Michigan was a good pitching team so I knew I had to get things going (for the team),” Rudd said.

The No. 1 Wolverines’ (24-5, 24-5 Big Ten) pitching rotation gave NU trouble over the weekend, and junior pitcher Alex Storako was a main threat. Leading the Big Ten in pitching, Storako pitched fourteen innings and totaled 17 strikeouts in the series.

The Cats started out the weekend strong with a 4-1 win Friday at Alumni Field, showing a strong offense against Beaubian. Rudd earned 2 RBIs and 2 hits, causing Michigan pitcher Sarah Schaefer to enter the game for relief in the sixth inning.

“We learned a lot from (this weekend),” Rudd said. “For us, seeing great pitchers like (Beaubian and Storako) and competing against a great team helps us in the future.”

But the Wolverines took control for the rest of the weekend, capitalizing on NU pitching struggles. Despite junior pitcher Danielle Williams’ six strikeouts Friday, Michigan batters decoded the rest of the Cats’ pitching rotation. Wolverines’ junior center fielder Lexie Blair alone racked up four runs in the doubleheader.

Her runs caused the freshman pitcher Lauren Boyd (3-2) — who opened up Saturday’s rainy doubleheader in her twelfth game of the season — great difficulties. Boyd allowed seven Wolverine runs and had only three strikeouts. 

Williams started the second game of the doubleheader well, and NU held a 3-1 lead for two innings until Michigan sophomore pinch hitter Chandler Dennis doubled down the right field line and earned two RBIs to tie the score 3-3. She suffered another blow at the bottom of the seventh inning when Wolverine senior first baseman Lou Allan blasted a home run to secure the win.

This is the second time this season NU got swept in a doubleheader — the first time was to No. 2 Minnesota. Aside from the Cats’ offensive challenges, Storako was a main reason for Michigan’s wins.

The Frankfort, Ill. native allowed only two runs and struck out seven Saturday. She continued giving NU trouble in Saturday’s game, fanning ten players and giving up no runs.

At the plate, the Cats could not get into gear for three of the four games — the team scored only nine runs all weekend, while the Wolverines tallied 16. Rudd felt the team had difficulty against Michigan’s dynamic pitching, but it was good preparation for the postseason.

Junior centerfielder Skyler Shellmyer agreed with the sentiment, saying Beaubian and Storako were great pitchers who could help “gear the (team) up” for a future NCAA tournament run. 

Shellmyer moved from the bottom of the lineup to the top of the batting rotation this weekend. The Iowa native was poised for the task, earning two runs in the series.

“I feel confident at the leadoff spot,” Shellmyer said. “It shows the confidence my coaches have within me.”

With only three series left in the regular season before the NCAA tournament, coach Kate Drohan said the series against the Wolverines was a “glimpse at postseason play.” 

Drohan said the squad has some offensive kinks to work out before the Illinois series this weekend. She said it was tough watching NU drop two leads on Saturday to Michigan, but she’s optimistic for the Cats’ games against the Fighting Illini.

“We’ve seen a lot of the higher level pitching in the league,” Drohan said. “Our goal (for Illinois) is to be tougher mentally to finish those games and come up with those timely hits.”

Correction: A previous version of this story did not mention Kate Drohan’s position or first name. The Daily regrets the error.

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