For Northwestern softball, the weekend began with a failure to close out a game and finished with a blowout, in turn ending the 2015 season in the regional stage of the NCAA tournament in South Bend. The ‘Cats were thwarted by Kentucky 5-4 on Friday and knocked out by host Notre Dame after a disappointing 14-5 loss on Saturday.
NU kicked off the tournament with a back-and-forth contest against Kentucky. After Northwestern starter Kristen Wood and Kentucky’s Kelsey Nunley dueled for over half the game, a UK double plated the first run of the game for either team and a Northwestern error extended the lead to 2-0.
But Northwestern wasted no time responding, hanging a four-spot on Kentucky in the top of the fifth. The ‘Cats manufactured the big inning after a lead off single from Olivia Duehr was followed by a pinch runner, walk and sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with one out.
A two-out single from Andrea DiPrima would score the pair, followed by a single and Kentucky fielding error that put Andrea Filler on third. A third single, this one from Sammy Nettling, put the ‘Cats up 4-2.
Six outs from claiming an NCAA tournament victory, Northwestern could not hold the lead, allowing Kentucky to score two frustrating response runs in the very next inning. It wasn’t over for NU though, as the ‘Cats loaded the bases in the game’s final frame, giving themselves a chance to go ahead with two outs in the seventh. But Kentucky’s Meagan Prince was able to strike out Julia Kuhn for the game’s final out.
With their season on the line Saturday against Notre Dame, the ‘Cats were simply overwhelmed by an unrelenting Irish offense that seemed intent on defending their home turf.
After going up 2-0 in the first, Notre Dame blew the game open with a five-run frame in the second inning. The Irish lead would eventually swell to 14-1 by the fifth, and a Northwestern rally in the second half of the inning wasn’t enough to prevent the ‘Cats being run-ruled. The game ended after five innings, with the Irish claiming a 14-5 victory and ending Northwestern’s season in the process.
After starting the season 3-9, a trip to the NCAA tournament marks the end of a Northwestern softball season that at one point enjoyed a 17-2 streak. NU concludes its season with a 28-20 record and a second consecutive trip (and fourth in the last six years) to the NCAA tournament.