Coming off a 8-0 win over Chicagoland rival Loyala, in which sophomore Kristen Wood threw her second no-hitter of the season, the ‘Cats (25-11, 7-6) cruised to another 8-0 victory over lowly Indiana (13-31-1, 4-11) at Sharon J. Drysdale Field Friday afternoon.
“I was really pleased with our approach at the plate,” head coach Kate Drohan said. “I think that we hit the ball hard and on the ground and when you have that kind of focus to put pressure on the defense, good things will happen.”
On only one day’s rest, Wood took the circle and was money, as usual. She’s second in the conference in strikeouts with 162, and now has 14 wins on the season. The best part: She still has two years left of eligibility.
“She has stepped up in a big way, particularly in the last three or four appearances,” Drohan said. “She’s grown a lot mentally and that’s really been the difference for us.”
The ‘Cats, who are in the top five in almost every major offensive category in the Big Ten, continued their onslaught at the plate.
After a scoreless first, Northwestern shortstop Anna Edwards drove the ball well over the fence for her third homer of the year, giving Northwestern an early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, Wood got into her first jam of the afternoon. After Jenna Abraham reached on an error, Natalie Lalich bunted it to the right side, but because Abraham was running on the pitch, the second basemen had gone to cover the bag. There was no one to field the slow roller, which allowed Lalich to reach first base safely. It was the first hit Wood allowed in over eight innings. With two on and no one out and the 4-5-6 hitters coming up, it was time for this ace to show her stuff. She bore down and struck out Kelsey Dotson and Michelle Huber and got Kassi Farmer to hit a weak pop-up to the second basemen.
Wood spoke afterwards about how she escaped any further damage.
“I was just like, ‘It’s okay, it’s nothing, we’re going to get the next three, we’re going to get them out,’” she said. “I still have confidence, so it didn’t break me down.”
In the bottom of the fourth, the ‘Cats bats came alive once again. After Andrea DiPrima reached on an error, Anna Edwards delivered her second knock of the day with a line shot up the middle. Brianna LeBeau advanced the runners with a ground out to third and then Paige Tonz drove in DiPrima with an RBI groundout. With two outs and Edwards on third base, Andrea Filler hit a high shot over the outstretched arm of the right fielder, which scored Edwards.
At the end of four, the ‘Cats were up 3-0, which was more than enough for Wood, but like any offensive powerhouse, they weren’t satisfied. In the fifth, the ‘Cats added to their already comfortable lead when Mari Majam drove a ball to the left field gap for a double, which scored Allard from second. Then, Marisa Bast came up the plate and became just the sixth player in history to blast the ball onto the roof of Welsh-Ryan Arena, giving the ‘Cats a 6-0 lead.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit, looking for a strike, and I kept my hands inside it, and it felt really good,” Bast said. “I obviously didn’t see it, I was just running, and then when I heard everybody start screaming, I was really excited about it.”
Wood’s night ended after the sixth inning, because the ‘Cats scored two in the bottom half to win via the eight run mercy rule. She finished with 12 strikeouts, which tied a career high. Her performance might have been helped by the excited crowd, including some members of the Sigma Nu fraternity who showed up to support the ‘Cats.
“When the guys come out from the fraternity or the guys come out from the football team, it’s awesome and our team loves it,” Drohan said. “It makes a huge difference.”
The ‘Cats look to extend their winning streak to three tomorrow as they take on Indiana again at home.