March 9, 2013
Site: Clearwater, Fla. (Eddie C. Moore Complex Field 8)
Score: Northwestern 3, South Carolina 1 (9)
Records: NU (13-9), South Carolina (13-5)
Next NU Event: March 9, 2013 -- vs. Massachusetts (Eddie C. Moore Complex Field 9), Immediately
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Northwestern and South Carolina battled into extra innings Saturday morning at the South Florida Under Armour Showcase before the Wildcats plated a pair of runs on a two-run ninth inning homer to defeat the Gamecocks, 3-1 (9).
Northwestern improves to 3-0 at the tournament and 13-9 overall with its win while South Carolina now is 1-2 in South Florida and 13-5 on the season with its loss. The contest was the first meeting between the two programs since the Wildcats swept the 2007 Evanston NCAA Super Regional against the Gamecocks to advance to the Women's College World Series.
The Northwestern victory Saturday morning also was the 399th in 12th-year NU head coach Kate Drohan's career. NU now is 2-0 in 2013 in extra inning play.
After a scoreless first, Northwestern opened the scoring on the first pitch of the second inning. Amy Letourneau (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) did the honors, sending a deep shot over the fence in center for a 1-0 NU lead on her second home run of the season and the 10th of her career.
Other than her home run at the plate, Letourneau and South Carolina starter Katie Marks matched each other zero for zero in the circle until a leadoff Gamecocks' home run in the bottom of the fifth tied the game, 1-1. South Carolina followed that homer with a single before Letourneau fanned the next three batters to reach nine Ks in the game.
That fifth-inning blast also snapped NU's scoreless innings streak at 35 straight dating to the third inning of a contest against No. 16 Stanford at last weekend's Easton Invitational in Fullerton, Calif. That stretch was the third longest in program history behind a 40-inning streak during the 2008 Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Evanston Regional and a similarly long one during Big Ten play in 1987.
Northwestern put the ball in play hard in the sixth in response to the South Carolina run, but Mari Majam's (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) leadoff liner was snared by the shortstop and Anna Edwards' (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) two-out drive into left was directly at the fielder. South Carolina put two on with two out in the bottom half via a two-out single and an error before a ground ball ended that threat.
In the top of the seventh, Letourneau led off with a double that one-hopped the fence in right. She gave way to pinch runner Fran Strub (Coralville, Iowa/Clear Creek Amana), who scampered to third on perfect Aubrie May (La Mesa, Calif./Grossmont) sacrifice bunt. Again, good South Carolina defense to grab an Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) pinch hit liner helped to prevent NU from scoring in the frame.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Gamecocks' worked a pair of full count, one-out walks before Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) tracked down a shallow fly in center and Letourneau notched her 11th K of the game to send the contest to extra innings.
With Olivia Duehr (Antioch, Ill./Antioch) placed on second base to start the eighth as part of the international tiebreak rule (ITB), Scharkey moved her over with a sacrifice but South Carolina kept Duehr stranded at third. Letourneau did one better, not even allowing the Gamecocks' ITB runner to leave second in the bottom of the frame.
Eschewing the general rule of thumb that sacrificing your ITB runner to third is the smart move, Drohan let All-American Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) swing away in the ninth. The move paid off when Bast planted a pitch into the trees beyond left for a two-run homer and a 3-1 Northwestern lead. Bast's shot was her seventh of the season and the 25th of her career.
Letourneau racked up two more Ks in the bottom of the ninth to again not let a single South Carolina runner advance past second to secure the win.
Letourneau's 9.0-inning complete game was the longest outing of her career. She moves to 8-5 on the season after allowing one run on four hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts, one shy of her career high. She now has double-digit strikeout totals in eight of her 12 starts this season.
Letourneau and Scharkey each recorded a pair of hits while Bast drove in two to lead NU at the plate. Both of Letourneau's knocks were of the extra base variety. Senior Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) did not record a base hit to end her current hitting streak at 18 games, the third-longest of her career.
Northwestern returns to action immediately against Massachusetts at the South Florida Under Armour Showcase.
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