April 22, 2014
URBANA, Ill. -- No. 25 Northwestern plated six runs in the first three innings of the first game of a Tuesday doubleheader at Illinois and made them stand up in a 6-3 victory over the Illini.
Northwestern improves to 28-11 overall on the season with this victory, 10-6 in the Big Ten. Illinois now is 19-22 on the year, 3-13 in the conference. The two squads return to action immediately in game two of their BTN doubleheader.
Illinois made an outstanding defensive play to start the game before Northwestern exploded for a three-run top of the first. Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) led off with a bouncing ball high over the head of the first baseman, but the second baseman came all the way over to snare the ball on a dive and land with her glove on the bag for a routine 4-unnassisted putout.
NU shook off that web gem immediately, beginning when Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) singled to short and continuing when Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) blasted her seventh home run of the season over the fence in right field for a 2-0 Wildcats lead. The shot was her third in the last four games and the 37th of her career.
Later, with two outs, Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) doubled off the very top of the fence in left-center field and came around on a Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) single to give Northwestern starter Kristen Wood (Trevor, Wis./Wilmot Union) a 3-0 lead before she took the ball.
Wood worked around a two-out single and an error in the bottom of the first, then NU added to its total in the second. With two outs, Majam drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and came around to score when Bast ripped a single into center to put the Wildcats up 4-0.
In the top of the third, NU continued to pour on the pressure. With one out, LeBeau took a pitch off the leg and motored to third on a Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) double. Pinch hitter Olivia Duehr (Antioch, Ill./Antioch) drew a walk to load the bases before Julia Kuhn (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) put a ball in play to third. The throw came home but sailed over the catcher, allowing LeBeau to score.
Later in the inning, with two outs and the bases still loaded, Majam ripped a single into left to push another run home and make the score 6-0 heading to the bottom half.
Illinois got runners to first and second with one out against Wood in the bottom of the third. The next batter hit a soft fly ball into foul territory down the right field line that LeBeau ranged all the way over from second base to catch. She quickly fired to the second-base bag ahead of the trail runner trying to tag to start a rundown. Edwards chased that runner back toward first then alertly fired home to get the lead runner in an eventually terminal rundown to the end the inning.
Illinois made a pitching change to start the top of the fourth inning and retired NU 1-2-3, holding the Wildcats scoreless for the first time in the game. The Illini then found the scoreboard themselves with a two-out, two-run home run in bottom of the inning to make the score 6-2. Another Illinois run came home in the fifth before Wood escaped a runner at second and third, one-out jam to keep the Wildcats up 6-3 to the sixth.
The new Illini pitcher, Jade Vecvanags, was lights out the rest of the game, retiring all 12 Wildcats batters she faced. Meanwhile, Wood was able to make the early game runs stand up. She retired the Illinois side in order in the sixth with two strikeouts, then worked around a one-out single in the seventh to preserve the win.
Wood (16-5) allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in her complete-game effort.
Majam led NU at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Bast was 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
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