Softball: Northwestern holds on against UIC after early outburst

Northwestern catcher Paige Tonz had a career-high 4 runs in the Wildcats’ 8-5 win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday. The junior went 2-for-3 with a single, double and sacrifice fly.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern catcher Paige Tonz had a career-high 4 runs in the Wildcats’ 8-5 win over Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday. The junior went 2-for-3 with a single, double and sacrifice fly.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Northwestern on Wednesday bested in-state opponent Illinois-Chicago 8-5.

The Wildcats set the pace early with a 5 spot in the top of the first inning. The early lead gave the starter, senior Meghan Lamberth, confidence when heading out to the mound.

“It’s less pressure for me to be perfect,” she said. “I can give up one or two runs.”

Using that confidence, Lamberth was then able to hold the Flames to no runs in the bottom of the first.

“It’s great to start the game fast,” coach Kate Drohan said. “Especially with all of our speed at the top of the order. They can put pressure on the defense.”

The Flames didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning, when they knocked in 4 runs.

Lamberth finished the complete game giving up 5 runs on 11 hits with 5 strikeouts and no walks. The no walks demonstrated her impressive control of her pitches.

“My control is sometimes something that helps me and sometimes something that hurts me,” Lamberth said. “I could expand the zone more and challenge the hitters by making the ball move more and throwing more balls.”

The offensive push in the sixth inning by the Flames halted the Cats’ bid at a run-rule victory, as the push cut the Cats’ 8-0 lead in their half of the inning.

However, the NU defense was able to control the damage and keep the lead, earning the team their 30th victory on the year.

The first inning showcased the ability of the NU offense to put up a large number of runs in any inning.

Sophomore Amy Letourneau, although not on the mound, still played an important role in the Cats’ victory by knocking a 3-run home run in the first inning. Junior catcher Paige Tonz knocked in the other two runs on a double. Letourneau also added a triple in the sixth, leading to the Cats’ run scored in that inning.

Letourneau is able to support her pitcher from first base. Watching Lamberth get the victory for NU just further instilled her faith in the rest of the pitching staff.

“I have complete confidence in the whole staff,” Letourneau said. “No matter who is on the mound, we can win the game.”

Drohan echoed Letourneau’s feelings about the team’s pitching.

“I have tremendous confidence in the pitchers right now,” Drohan said. “Sammy (Albanese) has been looking great in her bullpens.”

The Cats’ defense behind its pitchers has also tightened up, committing only one error against the Flames on Wednesday.

After Letourneau’s home run in the first, the Cats were able to keep the rally going, leading to Tonz’s two-run double.

“The rally after (Letourneau’s homerun) was really a turning point in the game,” Drohan said.

The win gives the Cats not only 30 wins, but also their fifth straight win. The success over the past week will be key for NU as it heads into one of the toughest series of the season, a three-game set against Michigan, which is leading the Big Ten, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Currently, the Cats sit at fifth in the Big Ten, with their three-game series against the Wolverines the only thing standing in their way before post-season play.

With their offense a source of stability all season and the pitching clicking, the Cats have the utmost confidence heading into the tough series on the road.

“All parts of our game are going right now,” Letourneau said.

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