Softball: No. 10 Northwestern rides offensive momentum to Indiana sweep


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Rachel Lewis prepares to enter the batter’s box. Lewis leads the Big Ten in home runs with 19.

Nathan Ansell, Senior Staffer


Coach Kate Drohan and the Wildcats have hit their stride now.

No. 10 Northwestern (34-7, 15-2 Big Ten) kept its bats alive all weekend, scoring at least eight runs in all three of its wins against Indiana (23-17, 6-9 Big Ten). After other results over the weekend, NU jumped to the top of the Big Ten standings.

The Cats wasted no time in the series opener, scoring two runs in the first inning before sophomore third baseman Hannah Cady rocketed a home run in the second inning, her first of two that day.

“Knowing that I’m able to put solid contact on the ball, that just (set) the tone for the weekend,” Cady said.

After the Hoosiers got one run back with a solo homer, senior first baseman Nikki Cuchran restored NU’s three-run lead with her second RBI hit of the game. Junior left fielder Angela Zedak and Cady hit back-to-back home runs, and a double from freshman second baseman Grace Nieto capped off a five-run fifth inning. The game eventually finished 8-1.

Other than Indiana’s one home run, Drohan was pleased with senior Danielle Williams’ pitching performance.

“We missed a pitch, and they were able to capitalize on it,” Drohan said. “But I thought that Danielle pitched really well and was very efficient.”

Saturday’s game was the closest of the three. The Cats scored three in the second, but Indiana responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Indiana extended its lead in the next two innings, but Drohan’s squad came roaring back.

Cuchran knocked a pitch over the wall for three more runs before Nieto tied the game with her own solo shot — the game would eventually go into extras. Cady and Nieto provided two of NU’s six runs in the ninth.

Williams, who entered the game in the sixth inning, held strong. She earned another win, as a sacrifice fly from Indiana couldn’t erase the Cats’ six-run cushion.

“We’re not going to stop fighting for every single out (or) run,” Cady said. “As a team, that’s our one goal.”

In game three, the Hoosiers struck first, but freshman pinch-runner Ayana Lindsey stole home to tie the score. Senior shortstop Maeve Nelson brought in two with a third-inning double before a defensive error evened the score again.

NU took over after that. Graduate right fielder Rachel Lewis hit her Big Ten-leading 19th home run of the season, lighting up the scoreboard for three runs. Cady cleared the fence again, Lewis reached on an error to score another and Cuchran hit a triple — her second of the weekend.

“I’ve worked on my speed and athleticism, but (also) being a smart baserunner,” Cuchran said. “(That’s) the thing that Northwestern has helped me with the most.”

Zedak scored one more on a single to put the Cats up 11-3, the game’s eventual final score. Williams grabbed her third win of the series, bringing her to a season total of 22 — the most in the conference.

With only one day of rest between Sunday’s win and Tuesday’s upcoming showdown with UIC (10-26, 7-12 Horizon League), NU must recover quickly. The team, however, is eager for the chance to continue its excellent form.

“We trust each other, and we genuinely love each other,” Cuchran said. “It really comes through when we’re playing.”

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Twitter: @nathanjansell

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