May 16, 2014
SEATTLE -- Iona struck first but Northwestern struck best in an elimination game Friday at the Seattle Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats responded to two early Gaels runs with big middle innings to ride to a 14-4 (6) run-rule victory.
Northwestern improves its overall record to 34-17 with its victory and advances to play BYU in the loser's bracket finale immediately on Friday night. Iona, champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), are eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 24-24.
Senior Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) led off the game with a base hit on the very first pitch to reach 300 for her career. She and four-time All-American Tammy Williams (2006-09) are the only Wildcats to ever reach that milestone for NU. Later in the first, Allard was joined on base by Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) (walk) and Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) (HBP) with two outs. Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) then hit a grand slam distance ball that went inches foul past the yellow pole in left field. Iona took a deep breath and retired Edwards to keep NU scoreless.
The Gaels then put the first runs of the game on the board with a one-out double and a home run to take a 2-0 lead in the game. Around those hits, Wildcats' starter Kristen Wood (Trevor, Wis./Wilmot Union) struck out the side.
NU went down in order in the second but it was noisy. Andrea Filler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) flew out to the track in right center and Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) annihilated a line drive to right that hung up long enough for the fielder to grab it.
Northwestern turned that noise into runs in the third inning. Allard and Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) led off with infield singles before, one out later, Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) smoked a one-hop double off the wall in left to tie the game. Later, two-out singles by Edwards and Tonz drove in two more runs to put the Wildcats on top 4-2.
After Iona evened the game again with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the third, Northwestern went on the offensive with four more runs in the top of the fourth. With one out, Allard and Majam both reached on infield singles for the second consecutive inning and found themselves standing at second and third with two outs. DiPrima drove them both in with a solid single to center, then DiPrima trotted home herself when LeBeau smashed her 11th LeBomb of the year, a no-doubter over Walla Walla Road in left and presumably into Union Bay to put NU up 8-4.
Iona exchanged starting pitcher Jordan Courage for reliever Sarah McMahon after the home run, and McMahon retired the first batter she saw.
Iona tried to battle back again in its half of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs for its cleanup batter, but Wood got a three-pitch K of the cleanup batter to keep NU's lead at four runs.
With the score the same in the top of the sixth, Northwestern put the finishing touches on the game. Allard reached on an error to begin the frame, then stole second for the second time. Majam laid down a perfect bunt, and when no one covered second she kept running for a rare bunt double. Bast joined them on base to load the bags with no outs on her second walk on the contest, then the scoring began.
DiPrima started the six-run frame when she drove in her fifth run of the game with an RBI groundout, then Majam scampered in on a fielder's choice grounder from LeBeau in which no out was recorded. Edwards followed with a big fly, this one fair and gone for a three-run homer and a 13-4 Northwestern advantage.
The shot was Edwards fifth of the season and its preceded a two-out solo shot from Tonz that cleared the center field wall with plenty to spare to end the scoring at 14-4 on the senior's fourth blast of the year.
The three big innings were the 28th, 29th and 30th of the year for NU with four or more runs in a single frame.
Wood (19-10) earned the win, going 6.0 innings and allowing four runs on seven hits and five walks with nine strikeouts.
Allard and Majam both had three hits and three runs for Northwestern while DiPrima was 2-for-4 with two runs and a career-best five RBIs. Edwards was 2-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs, LeBeau drove in three and scored twice and Tonz had two hits and two RBIs.
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