Softball: After shaky start, powerful offense leads Northwestern past Northern Illinois

Sophomore Andrea DiPrima hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Northwestern its first lead of the game. The Wildcats went on to put up 4 more runs that inning, thanks to hits from the top of their batting order.

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore Andrea DiPrima hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Northwestern its first lead of the game. The Wildcats went on to put up 4 more runs that inning, thanks to hits from the top of their batting order.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Northwestern was able to outlast in-state opponent Northern Illinois in a wild, back and forth contest Tuesday afternoon.

The matchup featured many highs and lows for the Wildcats (22-16), who were able to push past the Huskies (13-26) 11-9 thanks to a 7-run fifth inning and a 3-run blast by sophomore Andrea DiPrima.

The Cats headed into the bottom of the fifth inning down 7-4, but the Huskies’ seemingly comfortable lead didn’t last for long.

Junior Mari Majam reached on an error by the pitcher to get the NU rally started. A walk and a hit batter loaded the bases for the Cats, and a sacrifice fly from sophomore Anna Edwards narrowed the Huskies’ lead to 7-5. DiPrima stepped into the box and blasted a 3-run homer to left to give NU an 8-7 edge. The Cats kept the lead the rest of the game.

“I love it when the offense is contagious like that,” coach Kate Drohan said.

NU kept the offensive bug throughout the rest of the inning.

The Cats put up 4 more runs in the bottom of the inning to gain an 11-7 (changed 11-5 to 11-7 according to recap JK) lead thanks to extra base hits by the top of the order, Majam and senior Kristin Scharkey.

“We know we can score no matter what,” sophomore Amy Letourneau said. “We’ve been putting up a lot of runs. We just keep responding even when the other team gets ahead, coming back and putting up more runs than them.”

Letourneau, who has been key all season for the Cats on the mound, was just as key for them in the box, blasting a 2-run homer of her own in the fourth inning, as well as a double.

While the Cats’ offensive explosion proved to be too much for the Huskies to handle, the NU batters looked like a different team throughout the first three innings.

Huskies starter Jessica Sturm found ways to hold the Cats through their order the first time up, mainly using the inside corner of the plate and jamming their bats.

“It’s a different look from a lefty,” Drohan said. “We’re excited that we saw a lefty because we think we will against Penn State (this weekend). She was cutting her curve ball up a little bit. It’s just about small adjustments here and there, and our right-handed hitters did a good job of making them.”

The Cats’ fierce offense is certainly something the team can lean on.

“Every day someone different is going to get it done,” DiPrima said.

DiPrima leads the team in batting average, batting .367 on the season after today’s game.

“I am feeling more comfortable in the box,” she said. “My pitch selection is better.”

Although both DiPrima and her team’s offense have been spot on, the Cats’ defense has struggled lately.

After committing 8 errors over the past weekend against Iowa, the Cats’ defense looked better Tuesday, but the team stumbled a bit on the mound.

Freshman Kristen Wood started the game for the Cats in her fifth start and seventh appearance this season. Wood lasted 4.2 innings, giving up 5 runs on 4 hits with an impressive 9 strikeouts.

Senior Meghan Lamberth relieved Wood in the fourth and claimed the victory. However, Lamberth struggled, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits in only .2 innings. Drohan then made the decision to send in her ace, Letourneau. The sophomore gained the first save of the season for the Cats and gave up no runs and no hits in 1.2 innings.

Letourneau, always composed and competitive, found no difficulty coming in from first base to finish the game for the Cats, especially because she can rely on her offense.

“I always have full confidence when I’m out there because I know that we’re going to hit,” she said. “Let’s get back into the dugout and keep hitting because I know we’re going to score and get ahead.”

The Cats hope to take their explosive bats into University Park next weekend to face conference opponent Penn State.

Comments