Short and sweep.
Northwestern Softball (28-9, 13-1 B1G) won all three games against Penn State (23-13, 5-9 B1G) at home. The Wildcats played three very different games but finished them all with additions to the win column.
Have a hot start? Finish strong? How about both?
Northwestern scored three runs in the bottom of the first, courtesy of a sacrifice bunt from third-year third baseman Hannah Cady and RBI singles from graduate first baseman Nikki Cuchran and first-year right fielder Kelsey Nader.
Graduate pitcher Danielle Williams started and pitched a complete game, striking out 11 in seven innings of work.
Penn State scored a lone run in the fourth inning, and had a two run sixth to tie the game.
Then the ’Cats exploded for six runs. Second-year designated player Ayana Lindsey hit a solo home run to break the tie. Graduate shortstop Maeve Nelson hit a double that scored first-year second baseman Kansas Robinson. Cady hit a sacrifice fly to score graduate center fielder Skyler Shellmyer. While already up three runs at that point, fourth-year left fielder Angela Zedak hit a three-run bomb to double the lead and put the game out of reach.
Penn State would score one more run in the top of the seventh, but it was too little too late and Northwestern took game one.
Runs, more runsnau and a few extra runs added in for good measure.
The Wildcats scored a program-record 24 runs against Penn State in just four innings of offensive play. Five RBI singles, an RBI double and two homers were hit in the second inning alone. NU followed up an 11-run second inning with a 10-run third. Fourth-year designated player Sydney Supple hit a two-RBI single in the fourth that set the new record.
Of the 14 Wildcats to have an at-bat, only one didn’t record a hit. Shellmyer hit three-for-four with three RBI. Nader hit two-for-four with four RBI and a walk.
In a game where offense took center stage, Northwestern’s pitching held Penn State in check. Graduate pitcher Cami Henry started and pitched four innings, allowing three runs while striking out three. Supple pitched the fifth and final frame, closing out the game.
From blowout to nail-biter.
Sunday’s affair was a close game where no team led by more than one run until the end of the game.
Third-year pitcher Lauren Boyd started the series finisher and pitched six innings, allowing just two runs while striking out six batters. Williams took over in the seventh, holding the Nittany Lion scoreless and giving the ’Cats one more chance to erase the one-run deficit.
That was all they needed.
Second-year second baseman Grace Nieto hit a leadoff single. Robinson hit a single moving Nieto – the tying run – into scoring position. Shellmyer hit a single, loading the bases. Penn State finally got an out, striking out Nelson, but that brought graduate catcher Jordyn Rudd to the plate.
Rudd hit a home run, ending the game immediately and securing the sweep. The walk off dinger was one of two hits for Rudd in the game. She and Nieto were the only two Wildcats with RBI and multiple hits in the game.
Penn State was far from the strongest opponent Northwestern has faced, coming into this series 2-4 in the Big Ten, but the Wildcats ability to play in pressure situations and sweep conference foes bodes well for the rest of their season and postseason odds. The ’Cats can beat you by double digits one day, then win a pitcher’s duel in the seventh inning the next day.