Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Softball Sidebar: Northwestern’s new speed showcased in sweep

While power hitting is one of Northwestern’s strong suits, Michelle Batts might never have had the chance to hit her game-winning home runs if it weren’t for another of the Wildcats’ offensive weapons: speed.

With one out in the sixth, leadoff hitter Emily Allard blooped a ball into shallow right-center field. The freshman sprinted out of the box, making a hard turn toward second. Without hesitation, Allard continued to second and beat the throw.

Only a handful of players have the speed to turn a Texas Leaguer into a double, but Allard made it look easy.

“All it takes is that one moment to … feed the team,” Allard said. “I was the person (Sunday). I was running on pure adrenaline and I just stretched it out.”

But Allard’s double wasn’t the only time she displayed her speed this weekend. She led off Sunday’s game with a walk and then promptly stole second base, later scoring on a seeing-eye single up the middle. Allard went 3-for-3 with three stolen bases on the day.Speed played an integral part in the Cats’ sweep of the Nittany Lions this weekend, as slappers Allard, freshman Kristin Scharkey and junior Robin Thompson sparked rallies with their quickness. A defense’s mentality changes when a person with speed is at the plate, Scharkey said.

“All you have to do is hit the ball on the ground, and there’s a really good chance you’re going to be safe,” she said. “That makes defensive players try to get rid of the ball quicker.”

NU’s quickness was also showcased in the fourth Sunday, when Penn State was forced to go to the bullpen after a pair of hits that didn’t even reach the pitcher. Thompson led off the frame with a bunt single, then stole second on the next pitch. Allard chopped a bouncing ball to the catcher and beat the throw to first, stealing second during the next at-bat.

“It’s so much fun to just know that all you have to do is basically touch the ball and you already create havoc for the other team,” Allard said. “(Speed) feeds the team for the big power hitters who can hit us in.”

Putting speed on the basepaths forced Penn State to alter its defense, giving the heart of NU’s order bigger holes in the infield.

“When you throw a fast person on base, they have to give something up,” Drohan said. “It’s impossible for them to cover every situation.”

On the bases, the Cats are one of the most dangerous teams in the Big Ten. Allard, Scharkey and Thompson have combined for 66 stolen bases.

“It’s hard to make a catch, a throw and a catch when you’ve got that kind of pressure-where you feel like you need to hurry,” Drohan said.

Whether by stretching a single into a double, bunting for a hit, or stealing a base, NU’s mindset for taking advantage of opposing defenses with its speed is simple.

“It’s a done deal,” Allard said. [email protected]

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Softball Sidebar: Northwestern’s new speed showcased in sweep