April 7, 2013
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Sharon J. Drysdale Field)
Score: Northwestern 7, Illinois 1
Records: NU (19-14, 5-3 B1G), Illinois (11-21, 1-8 B1G)
Next NU Event: April 9, 2013 -- vs. Notre Dame (Sharon J. Drysdale Field), 4 p.m. CT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern completed a sweep of Illinois Sunday at Sharon J. Drysdale Field with the help of a five-run fifth inning, defeating the Illini, 7-1.
Northwestern now is 19-14 overall on the season with its victory, 5-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois falls to 11-21 on the year with its loss, 1-8 in the conference.
In the NU sweep, Wildcats pitchers held the Illini to just five hits and one run over the course of the entire three game series. By contrast, NU plated 23 runs and pounded out 13 extra-base hits, including six home runs.
Illinois got its first run of the series and its first hit off Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) in the first inning Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead on a one-out RBI single. Letourneau had no-hit Illinois Friday for her second no-hitter in Big Ten play this season.
Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, a batter lifted a soft fly ball to Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) in center. Scharkey gloved it for the second out before firing home to Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) at the plate to nail a runner tagging up to complete an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the first, Mari Majam
(Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) squirted a one-out single back up the middle before stealing second base. Marisa Bast
(Orange, Calif./Villa Park) moved Majam to third with an infield single, but Majam was later ruled out at the plate when the throw came home on a fielder's choice grounder to short.
Letourneau came back to fan the side in the top of the second, and so began an exchanging of zeros between herself and Illinois starter Shelese Arnold. In the bottom of the third, Majam roped a two-out double but was stranded there before, in the top of the fourth, NU turned its second inning-ending double play of the game when Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) gloved a liner at short and fired to first to double up the runner.
Northwestern broke through in the bottom of the fourth, beginning its rally when Letourneau was hit by a pitch. Freshman Fran Strub (Coralville, Iowa/Clear Creek Amana) entered the game to run but did more of a trot when, with two outs, Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) drove a ball into the left-field bleachers to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. The shot was DiPrima's second of the season and the second of her career.
Illinois tried to even the score right away in the fifth, getting a pair of two-out base runners on a hit and a walk, but Letourneau got a backwards K -- her third strikeout of the inning and sixth of the game -- to escape the jam.
NU added to its newfound edge in the fifth on a rally started by an Olivia Duehr (Antioch, Ill./Antioch) walk, a Scharkey hit by pitch and a Majam single to load the bases with one out. Bast then unloaded everything with a line drive grand slam just inside the left-field pole to break the game open, 6-1. Bast's home run was her second of the series, her ninth of the season and the 27th in her career.
Letourneau followed Bast with a solo home run of her own for consecutive 'Cat clouts to extend the NU lead to 7-1. Letourneau's bomb was her sixth of the year and the 14th of her career. At that point, Illinois lifted Arnold in favor of game two starter Pepper Gay, who was able to end the frame.
Illinois again loaded the bases in the top of the sixth and again Letourneau was able to maintain the status quo, this time getting a pinch hitter to ground routinely to Edwards at short to end the threat.
NU tried to end its third-straight game early via the run-rule when Tonz, Duehr and Majam all drew walks to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Bast then battled through a protracted 10-pitch at-bat but was unable to repeat her grand slam feat from earlier in the contest.
Letourneau shut the door in the seventh to move to 12-8 on the season, allowing one run on four hits and seven walks with eight strikeouts.
Majam had a perfect 3-for-3 day with a walk to lead NU at the plate. Bast had two hits and four RBIs while DiPrima knocked in a pair.
Northwestern returns to action at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, when it welcomes Notre Dame to Sharon J. Drysdale Field. NU then hosts Iowa April 12-14 to continue its current 12-game homestand.
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