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 ends season with two losses to No. 1 Texas in NCAA tournament

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Daily file photo by Henry Frieman
Freshman pitcher Riley Grudzielanek pitches the ball. Grudzielanek pitched in each of Northwestern’s four games at the NCAA regional in Austin, Texas.

After defeating Saint Francis (PA) in its Friday NCAA tournament opener, Northwestern advanced to the Austin regional championship by posting a 1-1 record Saturday, before ending its season with a loss to No. 1 Texas Sunday. 

In their first Saturday contest, the Wildcats (35-13, 19-3 Big Ten) fell to the Longhorns (50-7, 23-4 Big 12)14-2 as their opponents dominated the run-rule rout.

Held scoreless for the first frame, Texas built a four-run lead in the second with two homers.

NU responded to an early shortfall by scoring two runs in the third inning, with junior outfielder Ayana Lindsey drawing a walk and sophomore outfielder Kelsey Nader going yard to halve the deficit.

With freshman pitchers Riley Grudzielanek and Renae Cunningham on the mound for most of the game, coach Kate Drohan’s squad struggled to contain the potent Longhorn offense.

After extending their lead to three runs in the bottom of the third with a sacrifice fly, the hosts continued to bolster their advantage, tallying nine runs on seven hits in the fourth inning to put the game in mercy-rule territory.

Down to its final three outs in the top of the fifth, Nader singled on a line drive to right field, but senior infielder Hannah Cady ultimately fouled out to end the game.

With their season on the line, the ’Cats bounced back with a 5-1 win over Saint Francis to advance to Championship Sunday.

Drohan’s group wasted no time getting on the board, plating two runs in the first inning by capitalizing on a base hit and two stolen bases.

Grudzielanek and Cunningham split time in the circle and conceded just one Red Flash run in the third inning on an RBI single.

NU extended its lead to four in the top of the sixth when freshman utility player Isabel Cunnea homered and sophomore infielder Kansas Robinson and Lindsey scored on Nader’s two-RBI single.

Nader led NU at the plate for the weekend, tallying four hits and four RBIs.

Entering Sunday’s championship, the ’Cats needed to beat Texas twice in order to advance to next week’s Super Regional. 

Struggling with her command during the past few weeks, graduate student pitcher Ashley Miller took the mound to start in Sunday’s contest and walked the bases loaded to lead off the game before she allowed two runs to cross the plate on a single.

The Longhorns held the ’Cats hitless into the sixth inning, steadily building their lead throughout the game.

After giving up two walks, a single and a three-run homerun in the second, Miller gave way to Grudzielanek, who took over in the circle trailing by five.

In the top of the third, Lindsey gunned out a runner at the plate from center field to give NU momentum as it headed to the plate, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize on the energy as they were retired in order in the bottom of the frame.

Texas added a run in both the third and fourth inning, extending its lead to seven before Cunningham relieved Grudzielanek in the top of the fifth.

The freshman pitching duo shouldered the bulk of the responsibilities in the circle, taking on a combined 20.2 of the ’Cats’ total 25 innings despite filling smaller roles throughout the regular season. 

NU’s only hit came in the sixth inning when graduate student outfielder Angela Zedak doubled off the left field wall in her final collegiate at-bat. 

The ’Cats struggled to put the ball in play against Big 12 Freshman of the Year Teagan Kavan in the circle. Kavan posted a career-high 12 strikeouts, with four NU batters striking out twice throughout the game.

Down to their final three outs, freshman catcher Emma Raye and sophomore infielder Bridget Donahey went down swinging and Cunnea popped up to end the game.

Following their 2024 campaign’s conclusion, the ’Cats will look toward their young roster to build upon this year’s postseason run.  

“You don’t want to end after today,” Drohan said. “We still have work in front of us, but I think they’re hungry for that as well”.

Email: [email protected]

X: @AudreyPachuta

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