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Softball: Northwestern drops Big Ten Tournament semifinal, to begin NCAA Tourney play Friday

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The Wildcats want no part of Minnesota.

Zach Wingrove

Northwestern (43-10) will not see pitcher Amber Fiser and Minnesota (41-12) again this season, unless both teams make it to the Women’s College World Series, and for the Wildcats, that observation comes with a sigh of relief.

After taking down host Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals, NU was four-hit by Fiser in the semis, suffering a 4-0 loss, their third defeat to the Gophers in the span of a week.

Northwestern came into the weekend as the two-seed, having a half game advantage over third-seeded Minnesota because the Gophers had a game rained out.Regardless, the two teams were always on a collision course to meet in the semifinals.

Danielle Williams (28-5) was once again the story Friday against the Hoosiers. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year faced a minimum 21 batters over seven innings, allowing just one hit for her 13th shutout of the season.

Playing a de facto road game in Bloomington although the Wildcats were designated the home team, freshman Jordyn Rudd lined an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning to give Williams all the insurance she needed. Nikki Cuchran drove in one more in the fifth, just her fourth RBI since April 6th. The Downers Grove, Illinois, native totaled a team-leading three hits over the weekend.

The Northwestern defense was strong behind Williams, including this highlight-reel grab by Skyler Shellmyer in center field.

Head Coach Kate Drohan sent out Kaley Winegarner Saturday in an effort to throw the Gophers a new look after they tagged Danielle Williams in the final two games of last weekend’s series. The decision yielded little results, as Minnesota hit two home runs in the first two innings, and a three-run deficit against the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year was insurmountable.

Morgan Newport threw four impressive innings in relief, allowing just two hits and no earned runs. The only other highlight of the loss came from Mac Dunlap, who made another spectacular defensive play at third.

Despite the early exit, Williams and Rudd were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team for NU.

The Wildcats are still having issues against the best competition they have faced, and the hitting in particular against top-flight pitching has not given them a chance. Despite the loss Saturday and struggles against Minnesota, which was awarded the seventh overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern is seeded 16th and will host an NCAA Tournament Regional this weekend for the first time in a decade.

The Wildcats will take on Detroit Mercy Friday at 2:30 CT We’ll have more on that matchup and the way the rest of the regional shakes out for you tomorrow.