Softball: Wildcats crush Spartans, senior Pauly makes home run history

Colin Becht

With two swings of the bat, senior infielder Nicole Pauly moved herself into an elite club of Northwestern power hitters. And with 22 swings of the bat, NU routed Michigan State for a sweep of their two-game series Wednesday.

The Cats (20-18, 6-5 Big Ten) defeated the Spartans (18-23, 4-8) in dominant fashion, 15-0 and 9-0, limiting Michigan State to four hits. Pauly crushed two bombs in the second game of the doubleheader, bringing her career home run total to 50.

She became only the third NU player to reach the half-century mark, joining Tammy Williams and Garland Cooper.

“It means a lot being on that list with Garland and Tammy,” Pauly said. “I looked up to them so much, so just being on that list with them is such a great honor.”

Pauly’s two homers were nearly identical, both visually and in the score book. Both her long balls hit the shrubbery behind the left-centerfield wall of Old College Field in the first and third innings of the afternoon game. The home runs also scored freshman Kristin Scharkey, combining to give NU a 4-0 lead.

“I was seeing the ball really well today, ” Pauly said. “I was swinging at the pitches that I wanted to swing at.”

Pauly was not the only one knocking balls out of the park for the Cats. Just two batters after Pauly’s second homer, Emily Haug hit a two-run big fly. Designated player Michelle Batts roped a splash hit two-run homer that bounced into the Red Cedar River beyond the stadium.

“We were driving the ball well,” coach Kate Drohan said. “We had great production throughout our entire lineup.”

In the circle, junior Jessica Smith and senior Lauren Delaney combined for 10 innings of shutout ball less than a week after surrendering 23 runs to Michigan. Both pitchers only gave up only two hits while striking out a combined 10 batters.

“Our pitchers really set the tone today, ” Drohan said. “They did a great job working ahead, working efficiently and throwing some big pitches when they had runners on.”

In the first game, Smith needed only 55 pitches to pick up her seventh win of the season. She faced just one batter more than the minimum.

“I was just really focusing on staying aggressive and trying to go out there and get that first out every inning,” Smith said. “Getting that first out is really important.”

Delaney matched Smith’s mastery in the second contest, allowing only three runners to reach scoring position.

Both Smith and Delaney were pitching with an early lead. Smith received nine runs of support in the first two innings. The Cats rallied for eight runs in the top of the second, their highest run production in an inning since scoring 10 against Southern Utah last year.

Dyer doubled in a run to begin the rally, followed by three walks and a hit by pitch that plated three more runs. With the bases loaded, infielder Adrienne Monka doubled to clear the bases.

With the run-rule margin already reached, NU expanded its lead, scoring four more in the fourth and another two in the fifth.

The second game was all about the long ball, with only three of the Cats’ nine runs not coming on home runs. After the pair of two-run homers by Pauly and another two-run shot by Haug, NU added three more runs in the fifth to enforce the mercy rule.

Senior centerfielder Kelly Dyer doubled in two runs and then scored on a single by Jordan Wheeler.

The Cats will look to keep alive the momentum of Wednesday’s wins today when they face Loyola.

“The team is ready to really make a run here,” Drohan said.

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