May 8, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- No. 5 seed Northwestern opened the 2014 Big Ten Tournament at its home ballpark in dramatic fashion, responding to a Michigan State grand slam with one of its own during a 10-4 win in the first-ever night game in Sharon J. Drysdale Field history.
Northwestern advances to play No. 4 seed Wisconsin in a 7 p.m. CT quarterfinal contest tomorrow, Friday, May 9. The Wildcats now own a 33-15 overall record on the season. Michigan State concludes its season at 12-37 with its loss. NU and MSU were playing for the fourth-consecutive game after the Wildcats swept the Spartans in Evanston in the final series of the regular season.
Former Northwestern head coach Sharon J. Drysdale -- the namesake of NU's home ballpark -- earned a standing ovation when she threw out the first pitch before Thursday night's first-ever night game on her eponymous field.
With a raucous crowd already on hand, sophomore transfer Andrea Filler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) turned the volume up a notch when she started the scoring with a three-run home run in the bottom of the second that landed in the top row of the right-field bleachers. Her first-career Big Ten Tournament at-bat resulted in the fifth home run of the season for the former Boston College student-athlete, and it came after Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) walked and Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) was hit by a pitch to put two Wildcats on base.
Northwestern starter Kristen Wood (Trevor, Wis./Wilmot Union) scattered the occasional Spartans base runner through the early innings, getting help once on an All-Big Ten Defensive-team worthy backhand pick by senior Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) at third base. After only three runs scored by the teams combined through four innings, things got weird in the fifth when the squads both batted around to combine for 10 runs with one grand slam for each side.
The Spartans, who were held in check to the tune of just three runs in three games during a Wildcats series sweep the week before, out-did that total with a single swing in the fifth inning Thursday. With the bases loaded and one out, the Spartan batter hit a grand slam into the left-field bleacher to put Michigan State on top, 4-3. After a walk to the subsequent batter, freshman Nicole Bond (Clayton, N.C./Clayton) entered the circle in relief. The next two batters also reached to re-load the bases, but Bond got a force out at the plate and a can of corn to Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) in center field to keep the Wildcats' deficit at just a single run.
Northwestern's fans were boisterous in their support to aid their team's hurlers through the top of the fifth and kept the noise sustained through a monstrous six-run response in the bottom half. Allard led off with a single to left, then stole second AND third to reach 148 career stolen bases -- good for 22nd all-time in NCAA Division I history.
Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) followed with a walk and stole second herself before Bast rolled a groundout to the right side of the infield to bring Allard home and knot the game, 4-4. DiPrima kept the inning going with a walk, giving way to pinch runner Krista Williams (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley). Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) then loaded the bases when her shallow pop fly toward left was dropped by the shortstop for an error. Filler followed one out later with a full-count walk to force Majam home and give Northwestern the lead back, 5-4.
The noise built and built with each ball called and each base gained in NU's rally, crescendoing to an explosion when senior Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) smashed a two-out, full-count pitch deep into the night sky for a grand slam and 9-4 Northwestern edge. The blast was her third of the year and the biggest of her career.
After the shot, Michigan State also replaced its starting pitcher, who was able to get out of the inning after Julia Kuhn (Middletown N.J./Middletown South) walked and Allard collected her second hit of the inning.
Michigan State loaded the bases again in the top of the sixth, but this time the freshman Bond collected herself and struck out the next two batters, getting the final one looking to keep the game at a 9-4 score.
Northwestern tacked on a run in the sixth. Bast was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then Edwards drew a walk. Later, with two outs, Filler drove a double to the fence in left field the brought Bast home for a 10-4 final score.
Wood went 4.1 innings in the start, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks with four strikeouts. Bond (7-0) picked up the win in relief, throwing 2.1 scoreless, hitless innings of relief with five walks and three strikeouts.
Filler and Tonz were the monsters of the NU offense in the Nos. 7 and 8 spots in the order. Filler was 2-for-3 with five RBIs and two runs scored while Tonz was 2-for-4 with her grand slam. Allard also had two hits and two stolen bases.
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