Dyer shot moves Cats into semis (Softball)

By Philip Rossman-Reich

The Daily Northwestern

The Big Ten tournament’s opening game featured two of the best offenses in the conference. But it was the pitching that stole the show early.

Both senior Eileen Canney for Northwestern and Lesley Noel for Michigan State gave up first-inning hits, but then shut down the offenses, leaving goose eggs on the scoreboard.

But the No. 6 Wildcats’ offense wouldn’t stay dormant for long.

Sophomore catcher Erin Dyer hit a two-run home run over the right-field fence in the fourth inning and NU added two unearned runs in the fifth to advance to the Big Ten tournament semifinals, defeating Michigan State 4-0 in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday.

“In the beginning of the fourth inning, (assistant coach Caryl Drohan) took us aside and calmed us down and gave us a few pointers as far as adjustments we needed to make,” Dyer said. “I think we all listened and made those adjustments we needed to make.”

Before Dyer’s home run, NU (44-10, 16-3 Big Ten) struck out four times and stranded senior Katie Logan on third base in the first inning. The Cats struggled to get anything going against Noel, who came into the game with a 3.31 ERA.

But freshman Nicole Pauly singled with one out in the fourth and Dyer brought her home.

Canney went through the first four innings facing the minimum amount of batters, with a double play at third base to end the first.

She finished with 12 strikeouts, recording two in five separate innings, and gave up three hits.

“Once you get into postseason, every pitch matters,” Canney said. “I was just trying to keep things simple and pitch one pitch at a time. If I give up a hit, keep them from going to second. It’s only a matter of time before the offense is going to score.”

Noel had eight strikeouts and gave up six hits. Her defense didn’t help stop the Cats from pulling away in the fifth inning.

Junior Darcy Sengewald singled with one out and advanced to second on an error by shortstop Meghan Darhower on Logan’s slap hit.

Senior Garland Cooper singled to center field to score Sengewald for the first run of the inning. But then Spartans center fielder Nikki Nicosia made a throw home that escaped the catcher and went into the dugout. The dead ball awarded Logan home and gave the Cats a 4-0 lead.

Even though it got out to a quick start, Michigan State (33-26, 7-10) put only one runner in scoring position against Canney. Catcher Kara Weigle singled in the first inning and stole second base, but was tagged out trying to advance to third on Erin Dyer’s late throw.

NU will face the winner of today’s matchup between No. 10 Michigan and Illinois.

“It really doesn’t matter (who we play),” coach Kate Drohan said. “We’re really focused on ourselves and they’re playing the game hard. I really liked today how our team was very relaxed and was able to make some game-time adjustments.”

Reach Philip Rossman-Reich at [email protected]