May 19, 2012
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Site: Austin, Texas (McCombs Field)
Score: Northwestern 13, Houston 9
Records: NU (29-27), Houston (35-23)
Next NU Event: May 20, 2012 -- NCAA Regional Final vs. No. 8 Texas (McCombs Field), Noon CT
AUSTIN, Texas -- Northwestern tied its school-single game record with 17 base hits, scoring 13 runs to outlast Houston, 13-9, Saturday in a winner's bracket victory that sends the Wildcats to the NCAA Austin Regional championship Sunday.
After falling behind by three runs in the first inning, Northwestern exploded for seven in the second and three more in the third before riding out the 13-9 win in a wild and unconventional NCAA Tournament game. The Wildcats improve to 29-27 overall on the season with their win while the Cougars now are 35-23 with their loss. NU now moves on to its fifth NCAA Regional championship round in the last eight years.
In that Regional final Northwestern will again meet No. 6 overall seed and host Texas after the Longhorns advanced through the loser's bracket with a 6-1 win over Auburn and a 10-1 (5) victory over Houston. NU defeated Texas, 2-0, in Friday's opening round. First pitch Sunday is scheduled for noon CT on the Longhorn Network (99 percent chance you don't get the channel. Listen live here instead: Texassports.com.) Texas must defeat NU twice in the double elimination Regional while NU needs a single win; if the Longhorns win the first game Sunday, the "if necessary" game will take place at 3 p.m. CT Sunday also on the Longhorn Network.
Emily Allard (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the game before moving to second when Mari Majam (Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) slapped a ball off the cement-hard infield and way over the third baseman's head for a base knock. Houston recovered to field three ground balls and successfully get the lead out at third base three-straight times to keep NU off the scoreboard.
Houston took the first lead of the game with three runs in the bottom of the first against Northwestern starter Meghan Lamberth (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette). With one out, a walk, two singles and a double plated all the runs before the Wildcats got out of the inning.
Northwestern fought back right away in the top of the second. With one out, Olivia Duehr (Antioch, Ill./Antioch) drew a walk before Lamberth annihilated a pitch into the gap in left center for a run-scoring double. The inning continued when the throw on a Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) grounder pulled the first baseman off the bag for an error, then, one out later, Majam singled back through the middle to bring Scharkey in for a 3-2 score.
Senior Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) then stepped to the plate mired in an 0-5 slump (yes, that is a slump for the two-time All-American). After working to a full count, she smashed a pitch off the video board in dead center field above the 15-foot fence for a three-run home run and a 5-3 NU lead in the game. The shot was her team-leading 14th of the year and the 55th of her career, tying her with Garland Cooper (2004-07) for second all-time in NU history.
The inning continued when Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) beat out an infield single before Amy Letourneau (Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) sent a soaring fly ball up into the Texas-sized breeze blowing out, carrying it over the fence for a two-run shot and a 7-3 Northwestern edge. The shot was Letourneau's eighth of the year and it knocked Houston starter Bailey Watts from the circle, with her replacement able to secure the final out and end NU's seven-run second.
Houston responded with a pair of runs in its half of the second. After a run-scoring double and a single, Letourneau replaced Lamberth in the circle. One more run came home on a sacrifice fly, but Northwestern stopped the scoring there to take a 7-5 lead to the third.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out in the top of the third on singles from Duehr, Lamberth and Allard, the last of which extended Allard's current hitting streak to 13 games. Then, with two outs, Monka's mere presence at the plate was enough to draw a bases-loaded walk to force a runner home. Bast followed with a single back through the middle for two more runs, making the score 10-5 going into the bottom of the third.
Houston got runners to second and third with two outs in the bottom of the frame before an 11 minute delay when the first base umpire took ill. When play resumed with the alternate umpire, a walk loaded the bases before Letourneau got the Cougars' cleanup batter, who entered the game with 22 home runs, to foul out to Bast at third on the first pitch, preserving the 10-5 lead to the fourth.
After Houston brought its third pitcher into the game to start the inning, Letourneau led off the top of the fourth with a single, moved to second on an Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) groundout, to third on a Duehr single and then scored with two outs when Scharkey chopped an infield single high off the dirt to third base, pushing NU's margin to six, 11-5.
In the bottom of the fifth, Houston got a two-out bloop double down the left-field line to bring the 22-homer slugger Haley Outon back to the plate again, and again Letourneau shut her down in an RBI situation with a comebacker.
Houston broke back through in the bottom of the sixth. After the first two Cougars reached, Letourneau recorded a pair of strikeouts. A grounder to third that Bast juggled but kept in front of her before firing to first resulted in an error when the replacement umpire ruled the batter-runner safe. A bases-loaded walk then a slap back through the middle plated three runs and cut NU's lead in half, 11-8, going to the seventh.
Northwestern loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh when it's Conehead Line of slappers all reached base via a Scharkey single, an Allard fielder's choice and Majam's career-best fourth hit of the game. After Houston turned a double play, Bast blasted a double into the left-center field gap for some much needed insurance runs, giving NU a 13-8 edge going into the bottom of the seventh.
Houston of course mounted a rally, scoring a run after a leadoff walk followed by a Northwestern error. A hit by pitch then put two runners on with no outs before a grounder to second went for the first out and moved both Cougars on base up a bag. A walk then loaded the bases before a comebacker to Letourneau resulted in the second out at the plate. The next batter hit a ball deep in the hole and Allard made an athletic lunge and grab of it, leaping to successfully throw to Bast at third to end the game.
Northwestern's 17 base hits matched a school record previously accomplished three times before, most recently March 3, 2007, against Stanford. Majam led the attack with a 4-for-5 day, scoring three runs. Bast had three hits and four RBIs to reach 68 for the year, two shy of the school record. Monka also had four RBIs, giving her 198 for her career.
Allard scored three runs while Letourneau, Duehr, Lamberth and Scharkey all had two base hits. Letourneau scored twice and drove in two and Scharkey also had two runs scored.
Letourneau (13-9) earned the win in relief, allowing four unearned runs in 5.2 innings of work. She gave up three hits and seven walks with two strikeouts. Lamberth went 1.1 innings in her start, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks.
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