March 26, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
Score: #4 Michigan 2, Northwestern 1
Records: NU (14-8, 0-1 Big Ten), Michigan (30-2, 1-0 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Sunday, March 27 -- vs. Michigan (Sharon J. Drysdale Field), 1 p.m.
WATCH: Game Highlights
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern gave fourth-ranked Michigan all it could handle, but the Wildcats had their Big Ten and home opener spoiled by the Wolverines 2-1 Saturday afternoon at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
The two perennial powers were forced to square off on the opening weekend of conference play, but the matchup had the feel of a late-season contest with a title on the line.
Jessica Smith cruised right through the Wolverines' potent lineup the first time through the order, retiring the first 10 batters she faced. NU got runners to second base in each of the first two frames, but they were unable to cash in.
The 'Cats did break through in the third inning, though, to score the game's first run. With one away, Emily Allard, the Big Ten leader in batting average, got on board with an infield single. She was at second following a stolen base when Robin Thompson perfectly placed a bunt through the left side of the infield. The ball rolled deep into the hole near shortstop and Allard didn't hesitate rounding third as she scored all the way from second on the play to put Northwestern in front 1-0.
A two-out rally in the top of the fifth allowed Michigan to tie the game. Caitlin Blanchard doubled to deep right before Marley Powers dumped a single into center to make it 1-1.
After Smith stranded Wolverine runners at second in both the fifth and sixth inning, the Wildcats put together a threat against Jordan Taylor in the home half of the sixth. With one away, Adrienne Monka drew a walk. Pinch runner Lauren Ackerman moved to second on a wild pitch before Michelle Batts was hit by a pitch to give NU two runners aboard. Two batters later, another wild pitch moved two runners into scoring position before Mari Majam loaded the bases by drawing a walk. Kelly Quinn followed by hitting a shot to first, but Dorian Shaw made a back-handed stab and took it herself to hold the 'Cats at bay.
Michigan got the decisive run in the top of the seventh as Amy Knapp homered to left-center. Northwestern would go down in order in the bottom half of the frame.
Smith (4-6) took the loss despite allowing only five hits. She struck out two and did not issue a walk.
The teams continue their weekend series at 1 p.m. Sunday.
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