Bragging rights belong to the Wildcats.
Northwestern softball (28-9, 13-1 B1G) beat Illinois (24-20, 3-11 B1G) 6-1 on Wednesday, sweeping through a home-and-home series with the Fighting Illini. Northwestern won the first game 12-0 in Champaign on April 5.
While the Wildcats’ offense wasn’t quite as prolific as the last game against Illinois, they did strike first in the third inning when third-year third baseman Hannah Cady hit a two-strike single that drove in graduate center fielder Skyler Shellmyer. The hit was the highlight of a one-for-three game for Cady that also included a run.
Third-year pitcher Lauren Boyd started the game, and pitched until midway through the fourth, when third-year shortstop Megan Ward singled to score fourth-year designated player Kelly Ryono and tie the game. Boyd pitched 3.2 innings and allowed just one hit and two walks in 15 batters faced while striking out three.
Graduate pitcher Danielle Williams stepped into the circle after Boyd and pitched the remaining 3.1 innings, striking out six of the 11 batters she faced and allowing just one hit.
After the Illini tied the game, Northwestern responded with a rally in the bottom of the fourth inning. First-year right fielder Kelsey Nader scored on an error from graduate second baseman Avrey Steiner and retook the lead for Northwestern. second-year second baseman Grace Nieto scored off another Illini error. Graduate shortstop Maeve Nelson hit a sacrifice fly that drove in first-year designated player Kansas Robinson. Graduate first baseman Nikki Cuchran hit a single to right field that scored first-year pinch runner Bridget Donahey and fourth-year left fielder Angela Zedak singled, scoring Hannah Cady and opening up a five-run lead for Northwestern.
Cuchran was the only Wildcat to have multiple hits in the game, going three-for-three. Hits from six other Wildcats combined with savvy baserunning and costly Illinois errors allowed an offensive explosion that put the Illini away.
Neither team scored after the fourth inning and Williams held Illinois scoreless down the stretch, securing a comfortable win for the Wildcats. The win is Northwestern’s tenth in the Big Ten, in which the team is in first place. Northwestern softball clearly runs the state of Illinois, and the whole Big Ten Conference.