Irish set for matchup against Northwestern squad after series sweep over Boston College
Observer Sports Staff | Tuesday, April 9, 2019
The Irish are headed to Evanston, Ill. on Tuesday to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats (29-7, 9-0 Big Ten) are undefeated in conference play and are also winners of seven straight, unbeaten since a home loss to DePaul on March 27. The Irish (24-12, 7-5 ACC) are on a strong streak of their own, having won eight of their last 11 and five of their last six games.
The Wildcats feature four hitters hitting better than .300, with freshman infielder Nikki Cuchran leading the way at .350. Just behind her is fellow freshman and catcher Jordyn Rudd, hitting .339 with 16 extra base hits to go with it. The Irish will need to find a way to handle these hitters to come out of Evanston with a win.
Northwestern’s pitching staff is even more daunting than its lineup. As of April 8, the team had the 13-best earned run average in Division I, thanks largely to freshman workhorse pitcher Danielle Williams. Williams has thrown 131.1 out of a possible 239.2 innings, accumulating an astounding 1.07 earned run average, putting her in the top ten nationally for ERA. She has a 19-3 record on the season, and if the Wildcats choose to deploy her, the Irish will need to be sharp to get runners home.
Even if the Wildcats do not turn to Williams, sophomore pitcher Kenna Wilkey and junior pitcher Morgan Newport have been stingy as well. The pair have combined for a 7-3 record over 90 innings pitched. Notre Dame will need to focus on its offense if it is going to be successful against the Wildcats’ pitching staff.
As of late, the Irish have been up to the challenge. They have scored at least six runs each of their last six games. Fresh off of a home sweep against Boston College, the Irish are playing some of their best softball of the season, and it is coming at a critical time in their ACC schedule.
On Friday, the Irish were able to take care of the Eagles by a score of 11-0 in just five innings behind a near perfect start from freshman pitcher Payton Tidd. Tidd threw four innings of scoreless ball, and gave up only two total hits. At the plate, junior second baseman Katie Marino and senior first baseman MK Bonamy both contributed three-run homers, and were a combined 3-for-5 on the day. Senior third baseman Melissa Rochford and junior infielder each added two-run doubles in the contest as well.
In the second game of the series on Saturday, Tidd was nearly perfect yet again, throwing four scoreless innings of softball without giving up a single hit. Junior catcher Madison Heide was 2-for-2 at the plate, driving in two runs and launching a solo shot into the left field bleachers in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Bonamy also had a great day in the box, going 2-for-4 while driving in two runs and scoring two runs herself. The Irish pulled out the victory by a score of 9-3.
One of the keys for the Irish has been contribution from up and down the lineup. In their most recent game against Boston College, which resulted in a 7-2 victory, senior third baseman Melissa Rochford collected two hits, three runs batted in and a stolen base, while senior first baseman MK Bonamy got on base in all three of her at bats. Marino also had a productive offensive day, driving in one run and scoring two herself behind two hits.
The series against Boston College was also Notre Dame’s annual Strikeout Cancer weekend, which is a fundraising effort for those battling leukemia. The Irish have raised over $300,000 over the nine years of the event.
On the mound, the Irish pitchers have seen increased success recently. The team gave up just five runs over its three-game homestand against Boston College, and Tidd was undoubtedly the star of the weekend, surrendering just two runs in 13.1 innings pitched and recording winning decisions in all three games. The three wins improved her season record to 15-5 as she continues to solidify herself as a prime option next to sophomore pitcher Alexis Holloway.
The Irish will take on the Northwestern Wildcats at Drysdale Field in Evanston, Ill. today at 5 p.m.