March 7, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- In a fight between two great pitchers, Northwestern and South Florida's offenses slapped each other silly with infield hits, but it was the Wildcats who delivered the knock-out blow during a five-run third inning that led to a 7-2 NU win.
Northwestern improves to 13-4 overall on the season with its win while South Florida falls to 16-6 with its loss. USF's loss to NU accounts for just its third to a team not currently ranked in the top five in the country. Both the Wildcats and Bulls are receiving votes in both top 25 polls, with the 'Cats earning a few more in each instance.
The Wildcats' five-run third knocked out multiple-time All-America pitcher and 2013 USA National Team staffer Sara Nevins, who was one of three Bulls pitchers NU faced on the day, from the circle. Amy Letourneau (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) was the victor with six strong innings in the circle for Northwestern. The two teams combined for 12 hits with only three of them actually leaving the infield; NU delivered the big blow with a three-run home run in the third.
As has been its MO all season long, Northwestern jumped out to the early lead Friday against South Florida. Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) led the game off with a single, moved to second when Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) walked and then to third when Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) was hit by pitch. One out later, Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) lifted a fly ball to medium right field that was easily deep enough to score the scorching fast Allard for a 1-0 NU lead.
South Florida tried to get that run back in the bottom of the first, putting runners at the corners with one out against Letourneau. The NU hurler coaxed a one-pitch infield pop-up from the ensuing batter before a strikeout ended the threat. The Bulls successfully got runners to second and third with two outs again in the second and this time a tricky grounder deftly handled by 2013 All-Big Ten Defensive Team selection Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) at second ended the inning.
Northwestern exploded in another patented monster inning in the third, knocking Nevins from the circle in the process. In the frame, the Wildcats sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five times -- marking the 11th time in 2014 that Northwestern has scored five or more in a single inning through just 17 games played.
It all began with Allard's second infield single of the game before a Majam sac bunt was thrown away for an error, allowing Allard to score and Majam to move to third, from where she would later score on a wild pitch. Then, with two outs, Edwards drew a walk, Andrea Filler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) was hit by a pitch and LeBeau LeBombed her second three-run home run of the day to center field for a 6-0 NU advantage.
The blast was her third of the season and of her career; earlier Friday she brought NU back from a 2-0 deficit against Kansas with a three-run fourth-inning homer in an eventual 4-3 Northwestern win.
After dodging bullets, Letourneau finally allowed one South Florida run to leak across in the bottom of the fifth, but stranded two more Bulls in scoring position when her seventh K of the game ended the frame with the Wildcats on top, 6-1.
Northwestern got that run back in the top of the sixth. Allard recorded her third base hit of the game with one out, moved to second on a Majam groundout then came around to score on a Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) base knock to make it a 7-1 game. Again, South Florida scratched out a run in the bottom half, this time on a two-out single, to send the game to the seventh with a 7-2 score.
In the bottom of the seventh, Sammy Albanese (Belmont, Calif./Castilleja) entered the circle in relief. The first two batters reached on slap hits but Albanese stranded them in scoring position with the help of two strikeouts. NU pitchers stranded 10 Bulls on base, the vast majority in scoring position.
Northwestern collected five hits total in the game, with Allard accounting for three of them that never left the infield. Bast's RBI single dribbled into center up the middle and LeBeau hit her LeBomb.
Letourneau (3-1) picked up the win, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work. Albanese tossed a scoreless seventh, giving up two hits and striking out two.
Northwestern returns to action tomorrow at 12:45 p.m. CT against LIU Brooklyn and 3 p.m. CT against Western Michigan at the USF Under Armour Showcase. Both of those games will take place at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla.
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