Softball: Batts slams NU past DePaul

Josh Walfish

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Northwestern refused to succumb to its recent finishing demons Tuesday, gutting out a 6-5 win over DePaul.

The Wildcats took a 6-4 lead into the seventh inning and, after a leadoff single, replaced senior pitcher Jessica Smith with freshman Sammy Albanese. Albanese gave up two hits and struck out another two to pick up her second save of the year. Coach Kate Drohan said after Saturday’s win over Loyola (Chicago) that she wanted to see Albanese take control of the game.

Drohan said she was happy with Albanese’s performance Tuesday.

“She hung one pitch, the double down the left field line,” Drohan said. “The strikeout to (Kirsten Verdun, the first batter Albanese faced) was huge. Ultimately what I saw was her fight and bulldog attitude.”

The game did not get off to the smoothest start for Smith and NU (17-9) as DePaul (20-11) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a Samantha Dodd two-RBI single. The Blue Demons piled on another two runs in the top of the third to extend their lead to 4-0.

It was a performance vastly different from Smith’s seven-inning shutout Saturday; Smith gave up nine hits and five runs in her six plus innings of work Tuesday. Smith said her pitches were a little off, but Drohan was quick to shift the blame to the defense.

“(Smith) really battled,” Drohan said. “She got beat in front defensively, but she responded well.”

The Cats’ offense had two golden opportunities to answer DePaul’s two-run first inning but both times left runners stranded in scoring position. In the first inning NU left runners on first and second while in the second it had runners on second and third and left them on base. Overall, the Cats left eight runners on base, marginally better than the nine they averaged in their sweep of Loyola.

When the offense did get going for the Cats, they were hard to stop. In the third, NU put four of its six batters on base and two of them scored to cut the Blue Demon lead to 4-2. In the fourth, two infield singles and a hit batsman loaded the bases for senior Michelle Batts. Batts took a 1-0 pitch deep to left-center field and with one swing of the bat the Cats took a 6-4 lead.

“I had seen a lot of changeups,” Batts said. “They made a pitching change, and I had seen the pitcher before and knew it would be coming harder.”

The changeups fooled Batts all day before the home run. She weakly popped a changeup behind home plate that was caught and then swung over two changeups in her second at-bat to strike out swinging.

Batts said the pitch is so slow sometimes that the ball seems to hang up in the air a lot longer for her.

The Batts grand slam turned the tide in the Cats’ favor. Drohan said she felt the momentum switching after the home run.

Smith said she used the home run to lift her spirits and help her settle down in the game.

“She picked me up today, ” Smith said. “Those runs were on me and the defense, and she bailed us out.”

NU takes on Northern Illinois at home Wednesday, and after using both Albanese and Smith against DePaul, Drohan would not tip her hand as to who would pitch Wednesday.