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

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

The Daily Northwestern


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Softball: Northwestern sweeps Michigan at home, jumps atop Big Ten standings

Freshman+pitcher+Riley+Grudzielanek+looks+toward+home+plate.+Grudzielanek+struck+out+three+in+four+innings+against+Michigan+Saturday.
Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Freshman pitcher Riley Grudzielanek looks toward home plate. Grudzielanek struck out three in four innings against Michigan Saturday.

Continuing its defensive prowess at home, Northwestern swept Michigan and seized the top spot in the Big Ten standings during its Friday and Saturday series.

With the sweep, the Wildcats (22-8, 8-1 Big Ten) extended their home winning streak to 33 consecutive games at the “J”, dating back to April 3, 2022.

Heading into Saturday afternoon’s series finale, NU hadn’t trailed the Wolverines (24-14, 6-3 Big Ten) all weekend. With a tie in the seventh inning and the ’Cats’ home winning streak at stake, freshman catcher Emma Raye drew a bases-loaded walk to secure the walk-off victory and protect NU’s perfect home record.

Throughout the series, the ’Cats capitalized off baserunning opportunities and Michigan’s fielding flubs. 

Sophomore outfielder Kelsey Nader stole three bases during the series, swiping home twice. Sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson went 5-for-10 on the weekend, and freshman outfielder Isabel Cunnea collected five RBIs.

In Friday afternoon’s series opener, NU nabbed a 9-1 mercy rule victory to hand the Wolverines their first conference loss this season.

The hosts enjoyed top-to-bottom lineup production against Michigan ace Lauren Derkowski. Derkowski’s 2.1 innings pitched on Friday was her shortest outing this season as a starter. Meanwhile graduate student pitcher Ashley Miller showed prowess on the mound, allowing just one hit and no earned runs over five innings.

Freshmen firepower jump-started the ’Cats’ offense, as infielder Ainsley Muno opened up the scoring with an RBI double. Since going 6-for-11 last weekend versus Ohio State, Muno’s bat has remained hot.

The following inning, Raye and Cunnea hit back-to-back homers. The deep shot marked Cunnea’s first collegiate home run.

In the fourth inning, graduate outfielder Angela Zedak darted from first to third on a single from Raye. Later that inning, Zedak scored on a wild pitch, bringing the lead to 6-1.

Nader also took advantage of crucial moments on the basepath. During the fifth inning, Nader advanced from first to third on a Zedak single. On the next batter, Nader stole home on a ball that dribbled away from Michigan catcher and former NU commit Lilly Vallimont.

In the first of Saturday’s two games — a doubleheader due to rain on Sunday — coach Kate Drohan’s offense stayed hot in an 8-5 victory.

Robinson went yard on the first pitch of the game, and Cunnea followed suit with a grand slam, bringing NU to a 5-0 lead after the first inning.

Defensively, freshman pitcher Riley Grudzielanek helped keep the Wolverines scoreless through four innings. With two Michigan baserunners, sophomore infielder Bridget Donahey ended the top of the second inning with an unassisted double play. Just two innings later, junior outfielder Ayana Lindsey secured a third out on a Superman-style diving catch in center field.

The Wolverines threatened with a five-run fifth inning, cutting the ’Cats’ lead to one. Freshman pitcher Renae Cunningham entered the game with two runners and no outs. Showcasing significant composure, Cunningham got NU out of a jam with three straight outs.

Robinson provided a cushion with a sixth-inning RBI double. Nader scored Robinson on a Michigan error, bringing the lead to 8-5. Cunningham recorded the save, pitching three innings and allowing only one hit.

The hosts took a 5-4 walk-off win in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. The Wolverines jumped out first with a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Nader added a run back with a double and scored on a wild pitch.

In the third, NU tipped the scales. Robinson scored Lindsey from first base off of a double down the third base line. Michigan’s first baseman proceeded to drop Zedak’s infield fly, bringing Robinson home from second. Raye lifted NU to a 4-2 lead with an RBI single.

The Wolverines fought back to a tie in the fifth inning with a two-run home run. The visitors came inches away from gaining a late lead, but Lindsey’s shoestring catch stranded two Michigan baserunners with the ’Cats’ home winning streak in the balance.

NU maintained its momentum heading into the bottom of the seventh. With a Nader bunt, Zedak single and a walk for senior infielder Hannah Cady, Raye stepped into a bases-loaded scenario. The freshman drew a five-pitch walk, bringing Nader home and securing the sweep for the ’Cats.

Drohan’s ace — Miller — had a stellar weekend, picking up two wins and surrendering just two earned runs.

NU will look to add to its conference win column at Illinois Tuesday.

Email: [email protected]

X: @rschlueter26

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