From March 8-10 Northwestern softball competed in the Oklahoma Tournament hosted by the University of Oklahoma. The Wildcats (17-6) took on four different teams, included the nationally-ranked home team twice, and walked away with three wins: one nailbiter and two big victories. The ’Cats struggled against the Sooners (20-2) and dropped both of their games against them by a wide margin. First-year Danielle Williams (12-3) had two wins and a loss on the mound, while sophomore Kenna Wilkey (5-2) pitched for one win and one loss.
2-1 W vs. Drake
7-0 L vs. Oklahoma
The Wildcats had a wild start to the weekend thanks to another comeback that has helped define the team this season. With Drake (12-12) up 1-0 thanks to a 6th-inning RBI off of Williams, the rising pitcher didn’t waste her chance on the opposite side of the plate, finding a 7th-inning single to centerfield to bring in an Eva Stees run. One inning later, a Nikki Cuchran base hit sent Rachel Lewis from second base racing. Lewis slid toward the plate to try beating the throw to home, and the Drake catcher couldn’t hold onto the ball, giving the Wildcats an impressive walk-off win.
Against third-ranked Oklahoma, however, Northwestern wasn’t as fortunate. The ’Cats mustered just one hit, coming from Maeve Nelson, while the Sooners put up seven hits and seven runs. Wilkey gave up five earned runs in the fourth inning, causing Morgan Newport to make a relief appearance and finish the rest of the way for the team. The Wildcat pitching corps combined for just three strikeouts out of 25 batters, while the batters struck out five times in NU’s final six plate appearances.
9-1 W vs. Tulsa
7-2 W vs. Grand Canyon
The ’Cats turned in two strong performances on Saturday, getting a combined 19 hits in eleven innings. Jordyn Rudd and Morgan Nelson both had five hits and 4 RBI on the day.
Northwestern handled Tulsa (13-8) in a five-inning, run-rule game, with Williams securing seven strikeouts and letting up just three hits. The team slammed four extra-base hits, including a two-run homer by Cuchran in the third inning. Tulsa’s three errors were critical, allowing six unearned Wildcat runs. Three NU runs in the first inning and two in the fourth resulted after fielding errors with two outs recorded.
Against Grand Canyon (12-13), the team held on to an early lead to get their third win of the tournament. Two singles and three walks in the top of the first inning led to two runs, while some miscues by Grand Canyon in the second helped bring Northwestern up 5-0. On the other side of the inning the Antelopes attempted a rally and brought the game within three, but grounded out when the bases were loaded and ended their momentum. Cuchran continued her solid weekend with a two-run double in the third to make it 7-2. From there the pitching of Wilkey took over, as the sophomore allowed just one hit in the remaining five innings. She finished with a complete-game, five-hit, seven-strikeout effort.
8-0 L vs. Oklahoma
The Wildcats’ rematch against Oklahoma wasn’t any prettier than before, and again the team failed to score a run while getting lit up by the home team. Williams was rocked in the second inning for six straight hits, including three homers, in just eleven pitches. She was pulled after five runs for Kaley Winegarner, but the damage was done. The Sooners ended the inning up 7-0 and scored against in the fourth for good measure. Northwestern record just three hits: two by Morgan Nelson and one by Maeve Nelson (who despite sharing similar names are unrelated). The loss drops Northwestern to 0-3 on the season against nationally-ranked opponents, with their other defeat being against #5 Washington at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.