Some good, some bad, all ball.
Following a 2-2 finish at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, No. 19 Northwestern softball (4-4, 0-0 B1G) once again went .500 at the ACC/B1G challenge last weekend in Clemson, South Carolina. The Wildcats picked up two wins over Notre Dame (5-4, 0-0 ACC), but lost both outings against No. 5 Clemson (10-0, 0-0 ACC).
In an uncharacteristic outing, graduate pitcher Danielle Williams gave up four runs and two home runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Clemson would add five more on fourth-year pitcher Sydney Supple in the second, opening up a nine-run lead before the Wildcats put even one on the board. The game ended after the fifth inning due to the run-rule. The run-rule immediately ends a game if a team is up by 10 or more after five complete innings.
On the other end, the Wildcats struck out nine times and mustered one two-run inning. Third-year third-baseman Hannah Cady and graduate shortstop Maeve Nelson each had an RBI. Graduate outfielder Skyler Shellmyer led the team with two hits in three at-bats. Not much to say, just an ugly game and unfortunate way to start the weekend.
Graduate pitcher Cami Henry pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just three hits and striking out two batters.
The offense had another modest outing, scoring two in the fifth inning to win the game. Fourth-year left fielder Angela Zedak and graduate first baseman Nikki Cuchran each collected an RBI. Graduate catcher Jordyn Rudd had two hits and a run.
Cady and Zedak both picked up an RBI in the sixth inning and three Wildcats (Zedak, Rudd and second-year second baseman Grace Nieto) had two-hit games.
However, Clemson had already scored three by the time Northwestern put up two. Third-year pitcher Lauren Boyd pitched a complete game, striking out five and holding the Tigers scoreless in the last two frames to give the ’Cats a chance. The offense came just too late to grab the W.
After three straight two-run games, the Northwestern offense finally exploded in the third inning of the final showdown of the weekend, picking up five runs (three of which came from a Cuchran double.) NU didn’t look back from there, scoring five more down the stretch to secure a comfortable win over the Fighting Irish. Cuchran totaled four RBI on the day, and Nelson added three RBI to her total.
Williams and Boyd split pitching duties on the day, combining to strikeout nine and strand five batters.
Northwestern split the ACC/B1G challenge, but we can’t be too upset at the results. They cruised to victory over a talented Notre Dame team, and had the No. 5 team in the country on the ropes in their own stadium.
To turn those “almost-there's” into wins, the Wildcats will have to convert more with runners in scoring position. NU stranded more runners than its opponent in three of the four games this weekend including leaving eight on the bags in the one-run loss to Clemson. Those runners could be the difference maker between a close loss and a clutch victory.
The softball ’Cats will be back in action next weekend at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California. They’ll take on Portland State (4-6, 0-0 BIGSKY), No. 24 Oregon (8-2, 0-0 PAC12), No. 2 UCLA (12-0, 0-0 PAC12), Kentucky (6-1-1, 0-0 SEC) and San Diego (1-10, 0-0 WCC). This will make for three straight weekends facing a top-ten opponent, but NU has proven they can hold their own.