The ‘Cats (29-15, 11-9) put an end to their four-game losing streak today with an 8-0 run-ruled victory over Michigan State (12-33, 4-16) in their final series of the regular season. Starting pitcher Kristen Wood largely held the Spartans, who are in last place in the Big Ten, in check. Michigan State hasn’t scored a run since Apr. 23 against Central Michigan.
The game was put out of reach in the third and fourth innings, when Northwestern’s offense really took off. They punched in four runs on four hits in the third, then scored another in the fourth.
Brianna LeBeau led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a towering homerun — her team-leading ninth of the year — to right field. Spartan pitcher then walked the next two batters, allowing the ‘Cats to put the game out of reach and invoke the mercy role. The game was sealed fittingly with a bases-loaded walk.
The ‘Cats will play Michigan State again the next two days to finish off the regular season. There was a lot to like today. The ‘Cats had no errors on the field and no mental errors either. They’ll look to sweep the Spartans to get some momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, held May 8-11 at Sharon J. Drysdale Field here in Evanston.
Studs & Duds
Kristen Wood: As she has been pretty much the entire season, Wood was money today. She might not have had her best stuff of the season, but when it came down to the clutch outs, she was able to get them every time. Wood only gave up two hits and no runs, but had some trouble with walks today. She got herself into jams in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings. On the year, she is now 17-6 with 194 strikeouts in only 148.1 innings pitched.
Third Inning: In the bottom of the third inning, the Wildcat offense exploded with four runs. Started by a single and a walk, the rally broke a stalemate. Until then, Spartan pitcher Kelly Smith had shut down the nationally ranked Northwestern offense.
Outfield Games: Some NU football players were in attendance today, and two offensive linemen participated in a game between the second and third innings. They spun around a bat seven times, and best of all, raced to put on a softball uniform as fast as they could. Seeing two massive men trying to squeeze into a softball uniform was a sight to behold.
Michigan State’s outfield: In the bottom of the third, with runners on second and third, Northwestern’s Paige Tonz was set to bust the game completely open. She hit a monster fly ball to left field, a few inches over the fence. But, the Spartans left fielder, Kassidy Kujawa jumped up, reached over the fence and robbed Tonz’s would-be home run.
Walks: Wood only allowed a total of two hits today, but kept getting herself into jams with walks. She finished the game with five walks. Against a lackluster offense like Michigan State, Wood can get away with that. But heading to the Big Ten Tournament, the competition won’t let her escape so easily.