Northwestern swept Indiana on Sunday afternoon, capping off a string of hard-fought wins in Evanston with a walk-off victory.
The Easter Bunny and a crop of NU football players were among the large and festive crowd at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The Wildcats improved to 27-11 overall and 9-6 in the Big Ten, dropping Indiana to 13-33-1 and 4-13 in conference.
It was a well-played series defensively for both sides. The Cats put up a modest 15 runs over three games, while the Hoosiers managed just four runs.
“Our pitchers gave up two earned runs in the last four games,” coach Kate Drohan said. “It’s always going to put us in a position to win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
NU got on the board first on Sunday. Sophomore second baseman Brianna LeBeau was hit by a pitch to start the second inning. After a wild pitch put her in scoring position, senior catcher Paige Tonz hit an RBI single to center, giving NU a 1-0 lead.
After a single from junior first baseman Julia Kuhn, senior outfielder Mari Majam followed up with a single of her own to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead entering the third inning.
Indiana tied the game in the fifth with a leadoff walk followed by an RBI triple from senior third baseman Shelby Gogreve. A sacrifice bunt brought Gogreve home.
NU had a chance to take the lead in the sixth after loading the bases, but Indiana senior outfielder Jenna Abraham made a difficult diving grab of a Majam fly ball to left field, keeping the score tied.
The bottom half of the seventh began with a single from senior infielder Marisa Bast. After junior outfielder Andrea DiPrima’s sacrifice bunt turned into an error, junior shortstop Anna Edwards hit the ball at the pitcher, who could not catch Bast at third. After a strikeout from LeBeau, Tonz picked up her second RBI of the game, this one a game winner.
Sophomore pitcher Kristen Wood hung tough throughout the game.
“Coming into the third game, they’ve seen you before so I just tried to stick with what went well the first game,” Wood said.
The Wildcats started the weekend strong, shutting out the Hoosiers 8-0 in game one. Wood was nearly perfect, allowing just two hits and three walks in six frames, striking out 12.
Edwards got the scoring started, smashing a solo home run off the McGaw Hall wall in left field. Already up 1-0, NU earned some breathing room in the bottom of the fourth.
After DiPrima reached on an error, Edwards sent pinch runner Fran Strub to second with a single. LeBeau and Tonz each grounded out, scoring Strub and moving Edwards to third. Sophomore infielder Andrea Filler made the score 3-0 heading into the fifth with a double to right field.
After another scoreless frame, NU blew it open in the fifth.
Emily Allard singled on a bunt and stole the 141st base of her career, moving into a tie for 25th in Division I softball history.
That wasn’t the only history made in this inning. After Allard scored on a Majam double, Bast homered onto the McGaw Hall roof and became an official member of the Northwestern Roof Club.
NU ended the game in the sixth with consecutive back-to-back singles from Bast and DiPrima.
Saturday’s game was a tighter affair. Nicole Bond had a solid outing, giving up only two earned runs on four hits and four walks, striking out eight, leading NU to a 4-2 win.
“What’s been really fun is how (Bond and Wood) have developed and grown throughout the course of the season,” Drohan said. “They really lean on each other and their chemistry is great, I really like the way they feed off each other.”
A solo shot from Bast and three straight doubles from DiPrima, Edwards and LeBeau made up the four Cats’ runs. Bond picked up the win and improved to 4-0 on the season.
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround with a doubleheader at Illinois on Tuesday.