Softball: Michelle Batts’ blasts key to pair of wins over Nittany Lions

Colin Becht and Colin Becht

With the weekend Michelle Batts had, the post-game superstar treatment was to be expected.

The junior designated player received endless autograph and photo requests after concluding a weekend in which she notched 10 RBIs and three homers. That explosive run production helped Northwestern sweep Penn State in a two-game series, 8-6 and 9-5.

“Michelle Batts has stepped up in every way possible,” coach Kate Drohan said. “She had great poise at the plate and she has just been doing a lot of things really, really well.”

Not only did Batts deliver in both games, but she did so at precisely the moments the Wildcats needed it most.

After NU (24-19, 9-5 Big Ten) fell behind Saturday 6-5 in the top of the fifth, Batts knocked a three-run blast over the right field fence to give the Cats the lead for good.

On Sunday, she delivered the clutch hit twice. The Cats fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first when the first five Penn State (28-20, 7-9) batters reached base. In her first at-bat since her game-winning homer the day before, Batts repeated the feat, crushing a three-run bomb over the left field fence to give NU a 4-2 lead.

Later in the game, with the Cats and Nittany Lions locked in a 5-5 draw in the bottom of the sixth, Batts proved she had saved her greatest heroics for last. After being intentionally walked in the third inning, Batts came to the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded, giving Penn State no option but to pitch to her. On a 2-2 count, Batts took a letters-high rise ball and sent it over the bleachers in right for a grand slam.

“I had (freshman) Emily Allard on third base screaming at me, ‘Stop swinging at the rise ball,’ and I was like ‘No,'” Batts said. “It just felt good, totally calm, cool and relaxed, and just swinging.”

The blast turned the previously deadlocked game into a sure NU victory, the Cats’ fourth straight.

NU made a habit of matching Penn State’s offense this weekend. With the exception of Batts’ grand slam, all of NU’s runs came in innings in which Penn State scored in the top half.

“We just came into this weekend looking to win every inning,” Drohan said. The Cats proved successful in this, only losing two innings of the series.

After the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 5-0 lead Saturday in the top of the second, the Cats responded with five runs, three of them scoring on a bases-clearing double by sophomore infielder Adrienne Monka.

When Penn State rebounded from a 4-2 deficit Sunday to tie the game at four in the third, junior leftfielder Jordan Wheeler gave the Cats the lead with an RBI single.

In the circle, NU utilized all three of its hurlers, with junior Jessica Smith contributing the bulk of the pitching. After senior Lauren Delaney struggled early Saturday-walking six of 11 batters-Smith relieved her brilliantly, throwing 5.2 innings with only one run allowed.Smith started Sunday’s game, surrendering five runs in five innings. Freshman Meghan Lamberth picked up the win with two scoreless innings of work.

“Lamberth came in, a total change of pace, and just did a great job hitting her spots,” Drohan said.

Winners of their last five conference contests, the Cats have moved into a tie for fourth in the Big Ten, just more than two weeks removed from being a half-game above ninth place. NU will put its four-game overall winning streak to the test Wednesday when it takes on DePaul.[email protected]