April 13, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS -- No. 14 Minnesota struck first Sunday in the final game of No. 23 Northwestern's series in Minneapolis and survived a late rally by the Wildcats, 3-1.
Northwestern falls to 23-11 overall on the season with its loss, 6-6 in the Big Ten. Minnesota improves to 32-6 on the season with its victory and now is 10-3 in the conference. The Gophers took the series, 2-1, over the Wildcats.
Much like Saturday's contest, the starting pitchers Sunday chucked zeroes at each other in the early going. Northwestern's Kristen Wood (Trevor, Wis./Wilmot Union) had a 1-2-3 first and worked around a leadoff walk in the 2nd while Minnesota's game two winner Sara Groenewegen survived two NU base runners in the first before retiring the side in order in the second and third.
The Gophers plated the game's first runs on the contest's first official hit. After a one-out hit by pitch, a home run gave Minnesota a 2-0 edge heading into the fourth inning.
Northwestern got on the board in the top of the fifth. Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) led off with a single, then, one out later, came all the way around to score on Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) double to left field to cut the Minnesota lead in half, 2-1.
After scoring, Northwestern employed perfect strategy in the fifth to keep momentum. Wood issued a one-out unintentional, intentional pass to uber-hot hitting Tyler Walker, then another with two outs to USA Softball Player of the Year finalist Kaitlyn Richardson while fanning everyone else to keep the Wildcats' deficit at one run, 2-1.
Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) ripped a one-out single to center in the top of the sixth and gave way to pinch runner Fran Strub (Coralville, Iowa/Clear Creek Amana). Strub motored to second on a wild pitch before Groenewegen got strikeouts to end the inning.
Minnesota was super patient in the bottom of the sixth, drawing three leadoff walks from Wood to begin the frame. Wood then got a foul out and a strikeout of the next two batters before Walker came the plate. Wood hit her with a pitch (limiting her RBI potential in the inning to a single run) before escaping with the NU deficit at 3-1.
Northwestern looked as though it had the comeback in hand early in the seventh. LeBeau rifled a triple off the very top of the wall in right center before Julia Kuhn (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) joined her on base via a four-pitch walk. The next batter, however, lined into a double play and that was that.
Wood (12-5) took the loss despite throwing a great contest. She allowed three runs on two hits and seven walks, with the majority of those walks being unintentional, intentional. She fanned five.
LeBeau led NU at the plate with a 2-for-3 days including her triple.
Northwestern returns to action in a midweek contest at 4 p.m. CT Wednesday, April 16, at Loyola (Chicago). NU then hosts Indiana in Big Ten action at Sharon J. Drysdale Field April 18-20.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!