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    Northwestern Opens Home Schedule With 7-2 Win Over UIC

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Sammy Albanese hit the first home run of her career Wednesday and then nailed down the seventh inning from the circle.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Sammy Albanese hit the first home run of her career Wednesday and then nailed down the seventh inning from the circle.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    March 28, 2012

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    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
    Score: Northwestern 7, UIC 2
    Records: NU (12-17), UIC (14-15)
    Next NU Event: March 31, 2012 -- at Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.), Noon CT

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern began its 2012 home season Wednesday against UIC at Sharon J. Drysdale Field, opening a 7-0 advantage before riding out a Flames' seventh-inning rally for a 7-2 victory.

    Northwestern improves to 12-17 overall on the season with its victory while UIC falls to 14-15 overall this year with its loss.

    Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) and UIC starter Devin Miller each worked through 1-2-3 first innings before the Flames threatened in the second and the Wildcats spectacularly put down the rally. A leadoff walk followed by a one-out double put runners at second and third with one out. The next batter hit a line drive back toward the circle, but way to Letourneau's right. She reached across with her glove hand and snowconed the hard-hit ball before easily turning to double off the second-base runner, who was standing midway between the bags not expecting Letourneau's tremendous catch.

    After that threat, both pitchers did well to limit the other team's offensive chances until the bottom of the third. There, Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) reached first on a single that short hopped the pitcher before moving to second on a productive Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) groundout. With two outs, Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) worked a full count walk and Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) received a four-pitch free pass to load the bases.

    Sophomore Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) then hit a hard ball at the shortstop, who chose to throw to third for the force. The fielder's throw hit Majam square in the back as she slid into the bag, allowing Scharkey to score on the error for a 1-0 Northwestern lead after three innings of play.

    While Letourneau did her part keeping the Flames' bats quiet, Northwestern's offense pressed the issue in the bottom of the fourth. Letourneau first reached base when her towering pop up on the infield was dropped for an error. Catcher Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) moved from the flex spot in the lineup to run for Letourneau, then was safe at second when an Anna Edwards' (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) fielder's choice ball resulted in a second error at the bag. Scharkey ripped her second single of the game to load the bases before, with two outs, Majam singled back up the middle to drive home Tonz and Edwards for a 3-0 NU lead. At that point, UIC changed pitchers and ended the inning.

    The Flames threatened seriously again in the top of the sixth, getting a leadoff walk over to third with one out. Letourneau snuffed the rally with a fly out to medium left and her fifth strikeout of the game to keep the shutout intact.

    In the bottom of the sixth, Allard led off with a single to extend her current hitting streak to 14 games, but she was called out for leaving first early. Majam then reached on an error, Monka walked (giving way to pinch runner Amanda Mehrsheikh (Chesterfield, Mo./Parkway Central)) and Bast singled to load the bases still with just one gone.

    Duehr then worked through a lengthy at-bat before slamming a single into right to drive home Majam, though Bast was thrown out as the trail runner on the play. Albanese then crushed the first pitch she saw off the McGaw Hall wall beyond left field for her first-career home run and a 7-0 Northwestern lead after six innings.

    UIC loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh via a walk, a Northwestern error and another walk. A third walk in the frame led to Albanese entering the circle in relief with the score 7-1. The next batter also walked to make it 7-2 before Albanese recorded a pair of strikeouts and a dribbling groundout to end the game.

    Scharkey collected a pair of hits to lead NU at the plate while Albanese drove in three and Majam knocked home two.

    Letourneau (6-7) earned the win, throwing 6.0-plus innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits, seven walks and five strikeouts. Albanese nailed down the game with 1.0 inning of work, walking one and fanning a pair.

    Northwestern returns to action with a Big Ten series March 31-April 1 at Wisconsin. The two teams will play a noon CT doubleheader Saturday, March 31, before concluding the series live on BTN at 2 p.m. CT Sunday, April 1.

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