May 16, 2014
SEATTLE -- One day after falling to BYU in the opening round of the NCAA Seattle Regional, Northwestern pounded out 14 hits in a rematch Friday night to defeat the Cougars, 8-3, and advance to the Wildcats sixth NCAA Regional Final in the last 10 years.
BYU bested Northwestern, 7-2, in the Seattle Regional's first game Thursday before falling, 9-0 (5), to Washington in Friday's winner's bracket contest to set up Friday evening's re-match. NU now is 35-17 overall on the year with its win over BYU in the loser's bracket finale while the Cougars fall to 34-23 on the year and are eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
After battling through four scoreless innings and seeing BYU take the early lead on Thursday, Northwestern took advantage of being visitors and jumped on top right away in Friday's elimination game. With one out, Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) singled to center and moved to second on an error on the play. Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) then smoked a double off the top of the wall in left to bring Majam around for a 1-0 lead.
BYU struck back in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of four walks issued by NU started Nicole Bond (Clayton, N.C./Clayton) in her first-career NCAA Tournament start to score three runs, the final two on a two-out, bases-loaded single.
NU put together a two-out rally in its half of the second on Andrea Filler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) and Paige Tonz (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) back-to-back singles to get runners to first and third, but BYU escaped that threat.
After a four-pitch leadoff walk in the bottom of the second, senior Sammy Albanese (Belmont, Calif./Castilleja) entered the circle in relief and held the Cougars in check thanks to three strong plays on the infield behind her.
NU then got one run back in the top of the third thanks in large part to an 0-2 leadoff triple by Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley). BYU nearly stranded her there with some outstanding pitching, but Andrea DiPrima (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) battled back from 0-2 to draw a two-out walk before Brianna LeBeau (Worth, Ill./H.L. Richards) fisted a single to left to bring Allard home and cut the deficit down to 3-2.
After a super-efficient bottom of the third featuring more nice infield defense, Northwestern's offense did what it had been trying to do against BYU for 10 innings prior: Break out the big bats. Filler immediately tied the score with a leadoff home run into the right-center field bleachers in the fourth for her sixth round-tripper of the year.
BYU elected to make a pitching change in that moment, bringing Thursday's winner Tori Almond into the circle. Tonz greeted her with a single through the left side before Albanese flexed into the lineup and helped her own cause with a pinch-hit, rifle-shot home run to dead center field to put the Wildcats on top in the game, 5-3. The blast was her second of the season after she also homered on Senior Day against Michigan State.
The rally continued after the homer when Allard doubled to left center, stole third and came home on a Majam groundout to make it a four-run frame and a 6-3 NU lead headed to the bottom of the fourth.
BYU started a hefty rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners to second and third with no outs. Albanese worked some serious magic, getting a strikeout on her patented out pitch -- the Filthy McNasty -- before a groundout to Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) at short and a deep flyout to Allard in center to keep NU on top by three.
With the score the same in the top of the sixth, the Wildcats added two more runs to their advantage. Majam began the rally with a one-out single for her second base hit of the game before Bast drove a line drive deep over the fence in left-center for her ninth home run of the year and the 39th of her career, putting NU up 8-3.
Albanese finished out an incredible relief performance in the circle with a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the victory, moving to 6-6 on the year after throwing 6.0 innings of shutout ball, allowing six hits and no walks with a strikeout. Bond tossed one-plus innings in the start and gave up three runs on two hits and five walks.
Five different Wildcats collected two hits apiece to pace Northwestern's 14-hit attack: Allard, Majam, Bast, Filler and Tonz. Bast drove in three runs, Albanese had two RBIs, Allard scored twice and Majam also had two runs scored.
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