Wildcats split doubleheader with rival Illinois

By Jacob Brown

Series Results:

  • G1: Northwestern 3, Illinois 0
  • G2: Northwestern 0, Illinois 8 (5 innings)

Riding a six-game Big Ten winning streak, Northwestern Softball (31-7, 12-2 B1G) went south to Champaign and split a doubleheader with rival Illinois (27-15, 10-3 B1G). The two in-state foes clashed Wednesday after their matchup the previous week was postponed due to inclement weather. 

The Fighting Illini played their second and third games in two days, having their ten-game win streak snapped by the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns the day prior. No. 6 Northwestern kept their momentum rolling after run-ruling Purdue at home three times over the weekend.

The Wildcats started game one with senior Danielle Williams on the bump, and the Illini countered with Lauren Wiles. Just hours after being named a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist, Williams once again showed that she is deserving of the hype. The lefty got into trouble early, loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the second, but recorded two quick outs, stranding three. She then struck out the side in the third, leaving the game scoreless going to the fourth.

Rachel Lewis and Jordan Rudd hit consecutive singles to lead off the top of the fourth. With runners on the corners and one out, senior Nikki Cuchran lifted a ball out to center that was caught, but had enough to bring Lewis home and allow Northwestern to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Angela Zedak reached base, and Hannah Cady brought her and Ayanna Lindsey, who pinch ran for Rudd, home with a double into the gap, taking the game to the bottom of the fourth with the Cats on top 3-0.

That’s all Williams would need, as she recorded her 15th complete game of the year, her eighth shutout, to bring her to 19 wins on the season. The senior’s final stat line: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 12 K. 

Lauren Dvorak got the call for the Cats in the second game, facing off against Sidney Sickels in the circle. After failing to score in the first game, it didn’t take long for the Illini to muster offense in the second game, putting up seven runs on Dvorak in the first two innings, and adding one more off Sydney Supple in the third. The Northwestern offense couldn’t get to Sickels, and the Wildcats lost the second half of the doubleheader in sluggish fashion 8-0. 

Northwestern will have a day off before facing the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington on April 22, 23 and 24. They currently sit at 12-2 in conference play, trailing just Nebraska, who at 13-0, is yet to lose a Big Ten matchup. 

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