Softball: Northwestern looks to bounce back against Illinois after losing series against No. 19 Michigan

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Catcher Jordyn Rudd readies for the pitch. The junior ranks fourth in the Big Ten in batting averages.

Lawrence Price, Reporter


Softball


After dropping three of four games in a hard-fought series against then-No. 20 nationally ranked Michigan, Northwestern looks to break its three-game skid when it faces Illinois at Sharon J. Drysdale Field this weekend.

The No. 3 Wildcats (22-10, 22-10 Big Ten) endured their toughest back-to-back-to-back schedule this season over the past three weeks, competing against then-No.1 conference ranked Michigan, then-No.3 Minnesota and then-No.5 Iowa. In total, four of the pitchers NU has faced rank in the top 10 in ERA in the Big Ten: Michigan’s Alex Storako and Meghan Beaubien, and Minnesota’s Autumn Pease and Amber Fiser.

The Cats will look to regain momentum against the Fighting Illini (20-12, 20-12 Big Ten) this weekend. 

“We have seen a lot of the high-level pitching in the league, from Iowa to Minnesota and now Illinois,” coach Kate Drohan said. “(Illinois is) also a great offensive minded team, so our goal this weekend is to be a little bit tougher mentally, to finish those games and come up with those timely hits.”

Batting-wise, the two teams have put up almost identical numbers in the hitting category, as they are separated by just .004 in batting average and number of hits by 1.

Junior center fielder Skyler Shellmeyer and junior catcher Jordyn Rudd have played a big role in NU’s offense as of late. Ranked numbers three and four respectively in batting average in the Big Ten, the pair collected 11 total hits this past weekend against Michigan. With her five hits, Rudd picked up five RBIs and a homerun along the way.

“Going into that weekend, I knew I had to get things going,” Rudd said. “When we had runners on I had to do something and I knew that I had batters behind me that could help me with it.”

There are not many differences in pitching between the two teams, either. NU has the fourth-best ERA in the conference, while Illinois ranks third. The purple-and-white have only given up two more hits this season and one less run as well.

Junior pitcher Danielle Williams leads the Cats’ pitching unit. She has the lowest ERA on the team and was named Big Ten co-pitcher of the week from her performance in the Iowa series. In three out of her last four starts, she has given up zero earned runs over 19.2 innings.

In the opposite dugout, the Fighting Illini’s pitching is headlined by pitcher Sydney Sickels, who ranks second-best in the Big Ten for ERA. She is joined by teammate junior pitcher Addy Jarvis in the top 10 at number nine.

As the final stretch of the regular season approaches, NU looks to climb the standings and make a push for their first regular season title since 2008.

“I think we really just need to solidify our defense and solidify our mindset up at the plate and try to build some confidence,” Shellmeyer said.

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