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: No. 23 Northwestern drops Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal to Indiana

Northwestern+looks+to+regroup+following+a+Big+Ten+Tournament+quarterfinal+loss+to+Indiana.
Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Northwestern looks to regroup following a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to Indiana.

In a season where conference wins have cost a premium, No. 23 Northwestern couldn’t buy one Thursday in its Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal game against Indiana.

Beating the Hoosiers (39-17, 12-11 Big Ten) in two of three games in their regular season series this past weekend, the Wildcats (33-11, 19-3 Big Ten) clinched their third consecutive Big Ten regular season title — earning the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

After defeating Purdue 6-3 in Wednesday’s opening round, Indiana set up a rematch of last year’s conference tournament final, where NU clinched a walk-off victory.

With graduate student pitcher Ashley Miller’s recent struggles, coach Kate Drohan decided to vary the team’s pitching responsibilities.

Drohan started freshman pitcher Riley Grudzielanek, who had been out since April 6 due to injury. 

The ’Cats took an early lead after freshman utility player Isabel Cunnea’s second-inning double  scored sophomore infielder Bridget Donahey.

Mistakes on the basepaths plagued NU’s threatening frame with freshman catcher Emma Raye and Cunnea thrown out on the basepaths on plays without a forced advance. 

Drohan’s group maintained the advantage until the fourth inning, when a Hoosier homer tied the game at one apiece. 

After taking over for Grudzielanek with two outs in the fourth, Miller could not shake off her recent accuracy woes as she struggled to throw strikes amid rainfall. 

Miller began the fifth inning with a walk, a hit by pitch and a throwing error to load the bases before she walked in the run. 

Freshman pitcher Renae Cunningham took over in the circle with the bases loaded and a 3-0 count, throwing her first pitch for a ball to walk in another.

As storms rolled in over Iowa’s Bob Pearl Field, the contest entered an hourlong rain delay with the ’Cats still trailing by two. 

NU couldn’t seem to string hits together, hindering its offensive momentum once the game returned. Indiana capitalized on the opportunity, adding another run to its tally with a sixth-inning RBI single. 

In the bottom of the inning, sophomore infielder Kelsey Nader cut the deficit to two with a solo shot and Raye kept the energy going, doubling to score senior infielder Hannah Cady, who had reached on a fielder’s choice. 

Down to its final three outs, pressure mounted on the bottom third of NU’s lineup to keep the game alive. 

After both Cunnea and freshman infielder Ainsley Muno grounded out to start the inning, junior outfielder Ayana Lindsey singled to turn the lineup over with two outs. 

As the ’Cats’ most consistent hitter, sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson is accustomed to high-pressure situations at the plate. Despite battling through three tough pitches, she ultimately popped up, sealing the game’s fate and dashing NU’s hopes of clinching consecutive conference tournament titles. 

Following the loss, the ’Cats will look to regroup as they await Sunday’s selection show when they will likely be assigned an away site for the following weekend’s NCAA regionals.

Email: [email protected]

X: @AudreyPachuta

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