Softball: Northwestern uses sixth-inning rallies to sweep Purdue

Northwestern pitcher Meghan Lamberth got the crucial hit in Sunday’s win over Purdue. The senior also threw a complete game in the Wildcats’ 4-1 win over the Boilermakers on Saturday.

Daily file photo by Josh Walfish

Northwestern pitcher Meghan Lamberth got the crucial hit in Sunday’s win over Purdue. The senior also threw a complete game in the Wildcats’ 4-1 win over the Boilermakers on Saturday.

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Nothing is ever easy with Northwestern this year.

The Wildcats, who have made a habit of scoring runs late to win games, scored 4 in the sixth inning Friday and 5 in the sixth frame Sunday to finish a sweep of Purdue. The three wins move NU (28-18, 12-7 Big Ten) closer to the fourth seed and a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in two weeks.

“We’re really willing to stick with the game and not give up at any point,” junior outfielder Mari Majam said. “Even though we were down in the bottom of the sixth, we knew we had some big hitters and we could get it done no matter what it takes.”

NU struggled mightily with Purdue pitcher Lexy Moore in the first couple of innings both Friday and Sunday. The sophomore’s change-up fooled the Cats and allowed the Boilermakers (22-28, 8-12) to grab early leads in both contests. However, NU made the necessary adjustments and forced Purdue to change pitchers in the sixth inning of the two games.

“I have to give some credit to (Moore). I thought she threw a good mix of pitches,” coach Kate Drohan said. “It took us a little time to get on time, so it’s about not getting frustrated. It’s about understanding and going back to the basics of pitch selection.”

Friday’s rally consisted of just 3 hits, but NU was still able to take advantage of Purdue’s errors. The Boilermakers’ pitchers hit two batters, both of whom came around to score, and a passed ball allowed two runners to move into scoring position. The Cats’ 4-run sixth came just after the Boilermakers scored 2 runs in the top of the inning to take a 4-2 lead.

The story was completely different Sunday as Purdue took an early 2-0 lead and hung on to it by a slim margin in the sixth inning. NU threatened to score multiple times but left 8 runners on base during the first five innings.

However, trailing 2-1, Drohan sent senior pitcher Meghan Lamberth  to pinch hit with the tying run on second base. Lamberth took the 1-0 pitch and sent a ground ball toward first base which took some funny bounces and allowed the senior to reach safely. The hit seemed to turn the inning around and four of the next five hitters smashed hits through the infield to bring around 5 NU runs and consolidate the lead.

“We’ve been talking about the changeup and sending it up the middle to right field,” Lamberth said. “(Saturday), I hit a changeup right to one of the fielders, so it was a little bit of payback to get a hit on that one.”

Saturday was the only game in which NU held the lead from start to finish. The Cats scored a run in the first inning and added on three more throughout the contest in the 4-1 win. Lamberth threw a complete game, striking out 5 Purdue batters while walking none and surrendering 8 hits. 

Sunday was also Senior Day for the Cats, who honored their two seniors, Lamberth and outfielder Kristin Scharkey, as well as junior Lauren Tyndall, who graduates after three years. Lamberth said she is slowly realizing her time at NU is running out, but cautioned she still has a lot of softball to play in purple.

“We still have a lot more games and we have a home game on Tuesday, so it’s not my last time yet,” Lamberth said. “It’s starting to sink in, but not too bad.”