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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Softball: Northwestern goes 4-1 at season opening Kajikawa Classic

Daily file photo by Jorge Melendez
Northwestern players celebrate a victory. The Wildcats started the season strong with a 4-1 record at the Kajikawa Classic.

If there’s one thing Northwestern knows how to do, it’s pick things up right where it left off. 

In a weekend that featured shutouts, resounding wins, and several noteworthy debuts, the Wildcats (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten) headed home with a host of encouraging takeaways from their opening weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Arizona. 

When the ‘Cats took the field for the first time this year, the team composition looked markedly different than it did eight months ago when they fell to No. 5 Alabama in a winner-takes-all NCAA Tournament super regional matchup. 

Despite a noticeably younger and less seasoned roster, the team still managed to garner similar positive results to those of last year’s memorable season.

In its season opener, NU dropped a close contest to Boise State. The squad wasted no time with offensive production, tallying two runs in the top of the first inning to give graduate student pitcher Cami Henry a comfortable lead as she took the mound.

The NU lead was short-lived as the Broncos tied the game in the bottom of the first and clinched victory with two late-game home runs. 

Despite the loss, junior infielder Ayana Lindsey’s fifth-inning RBI double served as a notable highlight in the game — a testament to the ‘Cats’ ability to claw back when they are down. 

Later that day, NU took on Arizona State in the latter’s home territory, and coach Kate Drohan’s group came away with its first win of the season. 

Graduate student pitcher Ashley Miller kicked off her tenure as a Wildcat on a high note, securing a complete game shutout in her first game sporting her new purple digs. In her debut, she recorded 11 strikeouts and conceded just four hits across seven innings.

In a Saturday morning matchup where both school colors and mascots were mirrored,NU faced off against Weber State in the first of two games scheduled between the two teams this weekend. 

With graduate student pitcher Cami Henry in the circle for her second start of the season, the ‘Cats overcame their opponents 3-2, with all three of their runs driven in off homers. 

In her first at-bat of the game, sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson went deep to give NU an early lead, while graduate student utility player Angela Zedak’s two-run homer in the fifth inning solidified the victory. 

The biggest win of the weekend came in the Saturday afternoon contest against St. Thomas (Minn.) in which the ‘Cats won 11-1 in a five inning run-rule blowout.

The game featured standout performances from the first-year battery, with freshman pitcher Riley Grudzielanek making her collegiate starting debut, and freshman catcher Emma Raye achieving her first career hit and first career home run on a single swing. 

Zedak put forth a perfect 4-of-4 performance at the plate, contributing two runs and an RBI. The first four batters in NU’s lineup amassed 12 of the team’s 15 total hits in the win over St. Thomas.

In their weekend finale, the ‘Cats secured an 8-0 victory over Weber State, invoking the five-inning run rule for another dominant performance.

In her first career start, freshman pitcher Renae Cunningham pitched a shutout, allowing two hits and zero walks while recording eight strikeouts. 

For the second game in a row, Zedak went four-for-four at the plate, bringing her weekend total to 10 hits, with five for extra bases.

Six out of the eight first-year players on Drohan’s squad earned their first starts during the opening weekend. Two had complete game wins on the mound, and two had their first career home runs at the plate. 

NU now looks ahead to next weekend’s trip to Florida, where it will encounter its first ranked opponents of the year at the Shriners Children’s Clearwater Invitational.

The ‘Cats are set to take on No. 15 LSU, No. 11 Oklahoma State and No. 5 Texas next weekend, along with matchups against Georgia Tech and UCF.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AudreyPachuta

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