May 20, 2012
Site: Austin, Texas (McCombs Field)
Score: No. 6 seed Texas 5, Northwestern 0
Records: NU (29-29), Texas (46-11)
Next NU Event: Season complete
AUSTIN, Texas -- After a furious 8-1 run to end the regular season, a huge win over No. 6 national seed Texas to start the NCAA Tournament and a gritty victory over Houston to advance to the Austin Regional final, Northwestern saw its season come to a close Sunday in a 5-0 loss to the Longhorns in an "if necessary" game.
Northwestern's 2-2 record in the 2012 Austin Regional makes NU's all-time NCAA Tournament record 39-30 in 13 appearances with 11th year head coach Kate Drohan owning a 27-19 mark in eight appearances. The Regional championship game appearance was the fifth for Northwestern in the eight-year history of the current four-team Regional format.
In what amounted to a three-game Super Regional between Northwestern and Texas this weekend, the Wildcats held the vaunted Longhorns' offense -- which entered the weekend ranked sixth nationally in batting (.335) and ninth in scoring (6.38 runs per game) -- to 10 total runs (3.3 per game).
The game marked the final contest in purple for seniors Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) and Olivia Zolke (Manhattan Beach, Calif./Mira Costa). The pair's ability and leadership on and off the diamond played a critical role in this young Northwestern team's growth and maturation en route to a late-season run not only to an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but to the Austin Regional championship round as the Region's No. 4 seed. With seven freshmen and sophomores in the everyday starting lineup, NU rebounded from a 19-26 record with nine games to play to finish the season on a 10-3 run, including an 8-1 record to conclude the regular season and earn an NCAA berth.
Just as she did in Friday's opening game, junior Emily Allard
(Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley) led off the Regional finale with a base hit to center, extending her current hitting streak to 15 games before she moved to second when Mari Majam
(Pine Valley, Calif./Mountain Empire) also singled. Texas ace Blaire Luna was able to retire the next three Wildcats, however, finishing the inning with a deep Amy Letourneau
(Laguna Niguel, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) flyout to center.
Texas took an early lead against Northwestern starter Meghan Lamberth (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette), turning a one-out single into a 2-0 edge on a home run from the Longhorns' No. 3 batter. Lamberth recovered to make quick work of the next two batters.
After a scoreless second, Kristin Scharkey (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza) led off the top of the third with a walk, then moved around to third on subsequent productive groundouts from Allard and Majam. Despite a battle that included one foul-ball bomb, Monka succumbed to Luna to end the inning.
After Lamberth quieted the top of the Texas order in the bottom of the third, Letourneau and Lamberth strung together assertive back-to-back singles up the middle with one out in the top of the fourth. Again NU was unable to break Luna, going down on a deep foul out and a strikeout.
While Northwestern's offense continued to try to figure out Luna, Lamberth was doing her part to keep the Wildcats in the game. She again was strong in the bottom of the fourth, stranding a one-out error at second base. Then, in the top of the fifth, Allard recorded her second single of the game with one out to account for NU's offense in the frame.
Lamberth recorded the first out in the top of the fifth before walks to the top two batters in the Longhorns' lineup. At that moment, Letourneau entered the circle in relief, getting an immediate double play grounder to Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) at third to end the threat and keep the Wildcats within two, 2-0.
Northwestern continued to get runners on base, this time leading off the sixth with a Bast hit by pitch. The sustained rallies that carried NU to a victory over Texas on Friday just never appeared Sunday afternoon, with Bast's sixth inning representing the seventh NU runner left on base.
Texas added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out rally, getting a double after two runners reached base to double its lead to 4-0. The next batter was credited with an infield single when she was ruled safe at first despite an incredible Anna Edwards (La Canada, Calif./La Canada) effort at second to range up the middle and glove-and-throw the ball to first. A wild pitch allowed one more run to score to account for the 5-0 final.
Allard recorded her third base hit of the game in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, but she would finish the game still on base.
Lamberth fought all day long in really a terrific start to recover from the first inning home run. She took the loss to make her season record 12-13, giving up the two runs on four hits and two walks with a strikeout in 4.1 innings. Letourneau finished the game with 1.2 innings of relief, allowing three runs on three hits and one walk.
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