March 21, 2014
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- If the first game of the Big Ten softball schedule is any indication, it's going to a fun year in B1G country. No. 23 Northwestern got a walk-off, extra-inning home run from Julia Kuhn (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) Friday in the first game of a doubleheader at the Ballpark at Rosemont to negate a furious Wisconsin comeback in an 8-6 (8) Wildcats' win.
Northwestern improves to 16-5 overall on the season with the win, 1-0 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin falls to 14-11 on the season, 0-1 in the conference. Northwestern and Wisconsin return to action immediately in game two of Friday's brunch doubleheader.
Northwestern put the game's first rally and runs on the board in the bottom of the second. Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) led off with a ball that was mishandled for an error before back-to-back singles by Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) and Andrea Filler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger). Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) followed with a fly ball to medium deep left field that brought DiPrima in for a 1-0 NU lead.
A Kuhn infield single re-loaded the bases before Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) was robbed of extra-bases and many RBIs by a great catch of a line drive in right field. NU's slappers then took over with RBI singles from Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) and Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) to make it a 3-0 lead heading to the third frame.
While Northwestern starter Kristen Wood (Trevor, Wis./Wilmot Union) worked around Badgers base runners with strikeouts through the middle innings, the Wildcats added to their lead in the fourth. Kuhn reached on an error to lead off the frame before back-to-back Tonz and Allard singles. Majam then hit an infield grounder that was brought home to get the lead out, but the bases remained loaded on the fielder's choice.
Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) brought home a pair with a double to right field, giving her 29 RBIs on the year and 169 for her career, moving her into fourth all-time at NU. The inning continued when DiPrima was struck by a pitch to re-load the sacks but Wisconsin was able to keep the score at 5-0 going to the fifth.
The Badgers then battled all the way back in that top of the fifth, plating five runs in an inning featuring two triples and a home run to re-set the game heading to the bottom half.
Northwestern tried to regain the lead right away when LeBeau was hit by a pitch, Kuhn laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt and Tonz reached on the equivalent of a swinging bunt single. Fran Strub (Coralville, Iowa/Clear Creek Amana) entered to pinch run for Tonz with runners at the corners and swiped second, but again Wisconsin responded by keeping the 'Cats where they were camped.
The Badgers took full advantage of the defensive momentum again with a two-out run-scoring single in the top of the sixth to push ahead, 6-5. At that point Sammy Albanese (Belmont, Calif./Castilleja) entered the circle in relief of Wood and ended the frame.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth before the Badgers induced an inning-ending ground ball. In the top of the seventh, Albanese did her part to keep the NU deficit at a single run.
In the bottom of the seventh, Tonz led off with her third single of the game before moving to second on an Allard sacrifice. Later, with two outs, Bast poked a soft ground ball toward second that the fielder corralled with no problem before throwing the ball directly into the ground in front of first for an error, allowing Tonz to come all the way around and tie the game, 6-6.
Wisconsin loaded the bases on a two-out single, walk and hit by pitch in the top of the eighth before Albanese got a slap chop to Bast at third to end the rally. LeBeau nearly ended the game with a two-out home run in the bottom of the inning but the ball curved inches foul. She would end up drawing a walk to set the stage for Kuhn's blast to left field for just her second home run in her career.
Wood went 5.2 innings in the start, allowing six runs on eight hits and six walks with a career-high-tying nine strikeouts. Albanese (4-2) earned the win, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings of relief while allowing one hit and one walk with three strikeouts.
Tonz led NU at the plate with a three-hit day and two runs scored. Allard, Bast and Kuhn all had two hits with Bast and Kuhn driving in a pair.
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