Softball: Wildcats can’t stop the Tide

Colin Becht

When Northwestern traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a two-game series against No. 6 Alabama, the Wildcats expected to have their work cut out for them. What NU did not anticipate was to suffer a pair of run-rule losses, its third and fourth in their last five games.

With the mercy rule imposed in both contests, NU (16-16) fell to Alabama (31-9) 12-1 and 11-1 over the weekend, dropping its record to .500 for the first time since March 19. NU has now lost its last five games.

“This is a rough part of the season,” junior designated player Michelle Batts said. “It happens in sports every day. You get in slumps.”

The Crimson Tide’s early rallies, combined with the absence of the Cats’ offense, gave Alabama the edge on both days.

The Crimson Tide demonstrated their power at the plate Saturday, hitting four home runs off junior starter Jessica Smith and another off senior Lauren Delaney.

Alabama established a 5-0 lead with three homers in the first two innings, setting the tone for the series.

NU joined the home run derby in the top of the third when senior centerfielder Kelly Dyer crushed a pitch from Alabama hurler Kelsi Dunne over the leftfield fence for a solo homer.Alabama continued its offensive onslaught in the bottom of the third as Amanda Locke blasted her second homer of the game, this time a three-run shot to left-center field.After Smith surrendered her fourth home run of the contest, Drohan pulled her in favor of Delaney. But Delaney did not fare much better, giving up a hit and two walks, the second of which brought in Alabama’s ninth run.

After the Crimson Tide held the Cats scoreless in the top of the fourth, Alabama plated three more runs in its half of the inning. NU scraped together a walk and two hits in the fifth, but it wasn’t enough. The mercy rule was imposed for a 12-1 final.

Sunday was much the same for the Cats as the Crimson Tide scored seven times in the first two innings.

NU picked up its lone run of the game on a long ball by senior infielder Nicole Pauly.Just as the series began with an Alabama bang, that is how the Tide ended it. Infielder Charlotte Morgan recorded a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth, giving Alabama an 11-1 mercy-rule win.

Pitching remained a weakness for NU as Delaney allowed six runs and walked six in 2.2 innings. She also picked up her fourth straight losing decision in Sunday’s defeat. Smith gave up 13 runs and six homers in 4.1 innings while freshman Meghan Lamberth surrendered four runs in one-third of an inning Sunday.

Offensively NU did little better, collecting five hits-two of them home runs-Saturday and Sunday.

“We could do a better job of hitting the ball,” Pauly said. “We started swinging at (Dunne’s) pitches … The excitement of the games this weekend and us trying to get out of this slump, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.”

The Cats will look to halt their five-game losing skid as they return to the friendly confines of Sharon J. Drysdale Field for a double header with Minnesota on Wednesday.[email protected]