Updated: Softball: Northwestern falls in Big Ten quarterfinal, looks ahead to NCAA Tournament


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Wisconsin infielder Katie Christner slides home with a third-inning run in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday night. The Badgers defeated Northwestern 5-4, advancing to the next round and leaving the Wildcats to prepare for the NCAA Tournament.

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

No. 5 seed Northwestern (33-16) fell to No. 4 Wisconsin (34-17) 5-4 Friday night in the quarterfinal matchup of the Big Ten Tournament at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The Badgers will advance and face No. 1 seed Michigan.

The teams’ nearly identical records were a testament to how evenly matched they were, all season and on Friday.

“It’s the nature of the game,” coach Kate Drohan said. “It’s about timely hitting this time of year. We outhit them, but we didn’t get the hits at the right time.”

Wildcat fans could point to multiple points of the game where a hit here or a bounce there could have changed the outcome entirely. The Cats were hot as early as the first inning but only ended up with a 1-0 lead.

Senior outfielder Emily Allard began with a double on the first pitch of the game, followed by a sacrifice bunt and Wisconsin error, which moved Allard to third. A double steal attempt turned into an out at second, but Allard came around to score, giving NU a 1-0 lead.

After junior outfielder Andrea DiPrima walked, junior shortstop Anna Edwards singled and sophomore second baseman Brianna LeBeau was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But Wisconsin pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart struck out sophomore infielder Andrea Filler to end the inning.

Starting pitcher Kristen Wood was solid to start the game for Northwestern, taking down the first seven batters she faced.

The sophomore’s only trouble came in the third inning.

With one out, the Badgers picked up a walk, single and a Cats error to score a run. With runners on second and third, third baseman Michelle Mueller singled to plate two. That brought up senior first baseman Stephanie Peace, who smashed a two-run homer in cleanup to give the Badgers a 5-3 lead.

“As has been the case this year, we got burned by the big inning,” Drohan said.

The Cats fought to regain the lead in the top of the fourth and did put up one run. After Bast was hit by a pitch and DiPrima singled, LeBeau knocked a ball out of reach of the shortstop for a double, bringing in Bast.

NU was close to the breakthrough hit again in the sixth inning. After Majam was hit by a pitch and stole second, Bast struck out bringing up DiPrima. She drove the ball deep to left center field, but the gusting lakefront wind stalled the ball and the Cats’ rally.

“We play on this field every day so we know the wind better than anybody,” Allard said. “We hit the ball as hard as we could and it got caught. That’s just playing in Chicago.”

The Wildcats had one last chance in the seventh inning and were feet away from possibly tying the game. After LeBeau began the inning with an infield single, Filler hit a grounder to move her to second. With two outs remaining, senior catcher Paige Tonz ripped a potential game-tying hit to the shortstop, who tagged LeBeau for the game-ending double play.

After her final home game, Allard reflected on her career at NU.

“It’s an honor,” Allard said. “I’m sad to see it end like this, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and there’s no other college or school I’d represent rather than Northwestern.”

However, the Cats’ season is not over quite yet. On Sunday night, the team was selected to the NCAA Tournament and will head to Seattle for a double-elimination first round that begins Thursday against Brigham Young.

“We’re still talking about how we can improve,” Drohan said, “how we can get one run better tonight. I really enjoy the process with this group, so we’re just going to continue along our path here, get ready for our next opportunity, and work as hard as we can.”

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