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: All-hands-on-deck effort keeps Northwestern’s home win streak alive

Henry Frieman/The Daily Northwestern
Sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson high-fives a teammate in the dugout. Robinson tallied three hits and a home run against Michigan Saturday.

Northwestern has gone more than two calendar years unbeaten at the “J.”

Tasked with hosting Michigan on a 10-game home win streak and undefeated in conference play, the Wildcats (22-8, 8-1 Big Ten) rose to the occasion, extending their perfect record at home with a 3-0 sweep of the Wolverines (24-14, 6-3 Big Ten).

The team leaned heavily on consistent production from every player, particularly younger members who delivered breakout performances.

With both aces on their respective mounds — Lauren Derkowski for the Wolverines and graduate student Ashley Miller for NU — the series opener had all the ingredients for a classic low-scoring pitchers’ duel. 

Instead, coach Kate Drohan’s squad sealed Friday’s victory with a run-rule finish, showcasing an all-hands-on-deck effort.

All nine members of the starting lineup successfully reached base in the weekend opener, with seven different players contributing to the team’s total of 10 hits.

Both pitchers struggled to find their footing early, with each issuing two walks and allowing runners to advance on wild pitches. Still, they both ultimately got through the first frame unscathed.

Following a slow start from the top of the lineup, the ’Cats turned to their first-years to establish an early lead. 

To start the second inning, three consecutive first-years occupied NU’s six, seven and eight positions in the lineup. Catcher Emma Raye began with a walk, utility player Isabel Cunnea advanced her with a sacrifice bunt and infielder Ainsley Muno drove her in with an RBI double to put the ’Cats on the board.

From there, NU only built upon ​​its early lead. 

In the third inning, Raye homered to bring in two runs, and Cunnea quickly followed with a dinger of her own — the first of her career.

In a decisive fifth inning, the ’Cats surged with three runs on three hits and bold baserunning, sealing the game with a run-rule.

“It’s great when we have this kind of production,” Drohan said postgame Friday. “No one player is trying to do too much”. 

NU carried its winning momentum into Saturday’s doubleheader, plating five runs on two homers in the first inning of the first leg.

Sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson wasted no time, sending the first pitch she saw over the left field fence. After a hit by pitch and consecutive walks, Cunnea followed up with a two-out grand slam.

“I was really happy I could show up for my team this weekend,” Cunnea said. “Michigan is a huge rival of ours so it’s exciting that we all could step up”. 

Cunnea tallied extra-base hits in every game this weekend. Before this weekend, she had only amassed ten hits all season, all of which were singles.

The ’Cats extended their lead to six in the second inning after a walk and stolen base from junior outfielder Ayana Lindsey, who scored on graduate student outfielder Angela Zedak’s RBI single.

Held scoreless in its next three innings, NU allowed the Wolverines to score five runs in the fifth on three hits and two walks to cut its lead to one.

Freshman pitcher Renae Cunningham entered the circle in the midst of the Michigan rally for freshman starting pitcher Riley Grudzielanek, leading the ’Cats to an 8-5 win and earning her second save of the season.

With Miller back on the mound, NU got off to a rockier start in the final game of the series. Two first inning errors and a triple allowed Michigan to board its first lead of the weekend.

The ’Cats answered by manufacturing a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore outfielder Kelsey Nader reached on a double to the left-center gap and scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to one.

Both teams were scoreless in the second inning. At the bottom of the third, Robinson hit an RBI double and scored on a Wolverine error to regain the NU lead. 

In the fourth inning, Michigan’s Ryleigh Carricaburu launched a two-run homer that nearly landed on the roof of Welsh-Ryan Arena to tie the game at four apiece. 

The stalemate persisted into the final frame with both teams mounting tense offensive campaigns. Lindsey’s seventh-inning do-or-die shoestring catch in centerfield gave the ’Cats plenty of momentum heading into their final at bat.

Robinson initiated the inning with a near walk-off solo shot, falling just short as the ball grazed the warning track. Following Nader’s bunt single, Zedak’s solid hit up the middle by and senior infielder Hannah Cady’s strategic walk, the stage was primed for excitement as Raye prepared to step up to bat.

With one out and the bases juiced, Raye worked a walk to walk off the final game of the series in a 5-4 NU victory.

Following the sweep, the ’Cats will travel south for a midweek matchup at Illinois before hosting Maryland next weekend. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AudreyPachuta

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