Softball: No. 9 Northwestern sweeps Ohio State in Columbus with the help of offensive frenzy


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Maeve Nelson celebrates with her teammate. Nelson’s go-ahead grand slam in the fourth inning propelled Northwestern to a 9-8 victory at Ohio State. The Wildcats swept the three-game series against the Buckeyes.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter


After dropping its last two games, Northwestern sought to bounce back in a three-game series at Ohio State this weekend.

The No. 9 Wildcats (27-6, 8-1 Big Ten) ultimately swept the Buckeyes (23-10, 4-5), taking a run-rule victory Friday night and both games of the doubleheader Sunday.

“We knew Ohio State was going to be tough,” coach Kate Drohan said. “They’re a very good offensive team and their pitcher, Lexie Handley, had just been Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. Our team did a great job preparing, and they were really focused leading up to the weekend.”

The Cats began the series with a 12-3 win in six innings against the Buckeyes on Friday. NU opened up the scoring in the top of the first inning with back-to-back solo home runs from graduate outfielder Rachel Lewis and senior catcher Jordyn Rudd. Ohio State’s Hannah Bryan responded with a two-run home run in the second inning, but it was all Cats for the rest of the game.

Buckeye pitcher Handley walked four consecutive NU batters to open the third. With the help of timely hits from junior outfielder Angela Zedak and senior infielder Nikki Cuchran, the Cats scored four runs in the inning.

Senior outfielder Skyler Shellmeyer, Zedak and Lewis each launched a home run in the following innings. Shellmeyer’s home run was the first of her career. Zedak’s sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth drove in one more runner and put NU up 12-3, closing out the matchup and handing the Cats the run-rule victory.

“Anybody on our team can step up at any moment and get it done, and that’s really special to have,” Lewis said. “It relieves a lot of pressure off of all of us to have to be ‘the one’ every single time. We can play more freely and trust in each other that we’re going to keep producing.”

Due to inclement weather, the second game of the series was postponed to Sunday morning. NU fell behind 4-1 after the first three innings of the matchup, but scoring opened up for the Cats in the fourth.

Handley walked two batters after hitting another with a pitch, setting senior infielder Maeve Nelson up for the go-ahead grand slam. A two-RBI single from freshman infielder Grace Nieto closed out the inning and gave NU a 7-4 advantage.

“(Nelson’s grand slam) really jolted us forward and showed us we’ve got this,” Rudd said. “Her at bat really proved that we can go deep into the count and drive the ball hard, and good things will happen.”

Two more runs from the Cats in the fifth inning inched the squad closer to matching its Friday performance, but Ohio State responded. A grand slam from the Buckeyes’ Sam Hackenbracht cut NU’s lead to one as they entered the seventh.

The Cats’ ace, senior pitcher Danielle Williams, took the mound for the final inning and closed out NU’s second victory of the weekend. Seven Cats recorded hits in their 9-8 win.

NU picked up right where it left off to start the second game of the doubleheader. Rudd hit a three-run blast in the top of the first, quickly propping up the Cats with a 3-0 lead.

A combination of NU’s offensive momentum and several sloppy throws from Ohio State propelled the Cats to a 7-1 victory. Williams was also key to the win, allowing just five hits and one earned run.

“We just have to stay in each at bat and stay in the moment, be ourselves,” Rudd said. “That’s what’s really going to push us forward this week.”

The Cats will travel to Illinois for a doubleheader on Wednesday before returning home for a weekend series against Purdue.

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Twitter: @mkeileen

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