Northwestern picked up its 18th and 19th wins of the season Saturday, going 2-0 at the Hoosier Classic including a win over No. 19 Indiana.
The Wildcats (19-6) pummeled lowly Toledo (8-14), 11-2 in the first game, powered by senior Morgan Nelson, who went 2-for-5 at the plate for four RBI and two walks. First-year Nikki Cuchran was not far behind as she blasted a three-run shot for her second of the season.
Senior Kaley Winegarner earned her first win of the season by pitching five innings of three-hit ball, striking out eight along the way.
It took a few innings for Northwestern to get going, but Winegarner kept the game scoreless until the third inning when Cuchran launched her home run. The offense kept steady from there before exploding for five runs in the seventh inning to put to bed any doubts.
The quick turnaround proved beneficial to Northwestern. First-year ace Danielle Williams hurled another gem, going the distance in a two-hit shutout as the Cats topped No. 19 Indiana, 5-0. Williams improved to 13-3 on the year and outdueled Indiana’s ace Tara Trainer, who fell to 16-3.
All five Northwestern runs came via the home run. Sophomore Rachel Lewis hit a dinger to lead off the game, and Williams cruised from there. The ‘Cats added runs in the final three innings to secure their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Northwestern’s strengths have been both opening and closing strong. It has outscored its opponents 33-9 in the first inning and 23-2 in the seventh inning, per NUSports.com.
Despite Northwestern’s stellar record this season, before this weekend they had not beaten a ranked team, though all of those opportunities came against top-five teams. With a convincing ranked win to add to their solid early-season resumé, the ‘Cats should draw some national attention and creep up toward the polls.
While the matchup versus Indiana didn’t count as a conference game, the Wildcats open up Big Ten play this weekend when they host Rutgers at home.