April 27, 2008
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After winning game one of a Sunday doubleheader at No. 6 Michigan, No. 12 Northwestern held a 2-0 lead heading into the seventh inning of game two before the Wolverine attack finally broke through against Wildcats' ace Lauren Delaney (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias) in her 14th inning of the day to hand NU a 3-2 loss.
Northwestern and Michigan now remain tied atop the Big Ten standings at 16-2 each, with both schools also dropping a single game to Iowa this year. Should Northwestern sweep its series against Michigan State next weekend and Michigan do the same at Penn State, the two would share the conference crown and a coin flip would decide the host of the 2008 Big Ten Tournament because all other tiebreakers are equal.
The Wildcats now are 32-11 overall on the year, while the Wolverines are 44-5.
Michigan put the game's first threat together in the bottom of the first, getting runners to second and third with no outs following a walk, an error on a sacrifice attempt and a successful sacrifice attempt. NU starter Lauren Delaney (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias) then got Samantha Findlay to pop up harmlessly to junior Tammy Williams (Roscoe, Mo./Osceola) near the bag at second before fanning the next batter to keep the Wolverines off the board.
Northwestern opened the scoring in the top of the second inning when sophomore Nicole Pauly (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) absolutely unleashed the fury on a Jordan Taylor offering, driving the pitch deep over the packed outfield stands in right for a 1-0 NU lead. The homer was Pauly's team-best 12th of the season and the 26th of her career, jumping her over teammate Erin Dyer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport) for fourth place on the Wildcats' all-time list.
Following Pauly, the aforementioned Dyer drew a walk before being replaced by pinch runner Aly Euler
(River Forest, Ill./Lockport) at first. One out later, a Kelly Quinn
(Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) sacrifice bunt moved Euler to second. Freshman Robin Thompson
(Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King) then sent a screamer down the third-base line that a diving third baseman was ruled to have touched in fair territory as it went by, giving Thompson an RBI double and the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Michigan nearly pushed a run across in the bottom of the third, but made the fatal mistake of testing left fielder Jordan Wheeler's (Garden Grove, Calif./Los Alamitos) arm. With a runner at second and two outs following an NU error and a groundout, Michigan got a base hit into left field, where Wheeler corralled it and fired a one-hop strike to Dyer behind the plate to nail Alessandra Giampaolo by plenty to end the inning. The outfield assist was Wheeler's sixth of the season.
The middle innings produced little excitement from either team unless you are a pitcher's parent, with a double play in the fourth erasing Northwestern's only base runner from that frame through the sixth. Michigan was similarly quiet until recording back-to-back one-out singles and a walk to load the bases in the bottom of the sixth.
Delaney then battled Michigan's Dorian Shaw through a 12-pitch at-bat, with Shaw fouling off six-straight pitches -- several that were pulled extremely hard -- before Delaney pulled the string and struck her out swinging to the roaring delight of the NU faithful seated above the Wildcats' dugout. She then fanned the next batter to escape the inning unscathed.
Michigan again rallied in the bottom of the seventh. A leadoff single was followed by an NU error and a funky bunt single that popped into the air in front of the pitcher's circle and spun backwards like a Tiger Woods' pitching wedge to load the bases with no outs.
After a herculean weekend featuring a 14-inning marathon Friday and an intense seven-inning battle Saturday at Penn State in addition to Sunday's first game, Delaney simply began to run out of gas. The sophomore walked the next batter on several close pitches to force in the Wolverines' first run of the game before a double gave Michigan a 3-2 victory.
Delaney falls to 29-7 on the year with the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks with six strikeouts.
Northwestern returns to action in an exciting softball event for Chicagoland, taking on No. 1 Alabama and No. 23 DePaul at the Blue Demons' digs in Lincoln Park. First pitch of the showdown with the Crimson Tide is at 1 p.m. CT, while NU and DePaul square off at 5 p.m. CT.