Redemption came from a familiar place for the Wildcats on Sunday: Andrea DiPrima’s bat.
The senior rightfielder drilled a two-run double to give Northwestern a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth in the final game of its three game series at Nebraska. The Wildcats (21-17, 9-5 B1G) defeated the Cornhuskers (25-19, 12-5) 5-3, avoiding a series sweep and snapping their second six-game losing skid of the season.
Still reeling off of a three-game sweep at the hands of 15th-ranked Minnesota, the Wildcats dropped their first two weekend contests against Nebraska. But a comeback victory on Sunday repositioned the ‘Cats and salvaged the road trip as they head into the final homestand of the year.
DiPrima has been Northwestern softballs’s sparkplug this season. Her double on Sunday was the 38th of her Northwestern career, tied for fourth in team history. The Illinois native leads the team with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Her .417 average ranks fourth in the Big Ten.
Despite the 10-2 final score, Friday’s Game 1 matchup was tightly contested for all but the final frame. Northwestern pitcher Kristen Wood went paw to paw with Nebraska’s Emily Lockman for three innings. The cornhuskers scored three in the bottom of the second, but Diprima quickly answered back with a two-run bomb in the next half inning.
Yet after Lockman retired the side in the fourth, Nebraska zeroed in on Wood. They rallied for seven runs without making an out to run-rule Northwestern 10-2 after five.
A big-inning brought down Northwestern again on Saturday. Making her first college start, Senior Olivia Duehr put up zeroes in five of her six frames. However, Nebraska burst out for nine earned runs in the fourth en route to a 9-5 victory. Second baseman Sabrina Robin went 4-4 and swiped four bags in the losing effort, tying a team record for stolen bases in a single.
Wood returned for the series finale Sunday and redeemed herself, allowing just three earned runs over a 7-inning complete game. A technicality, however, nearly robbed Northwestern of a comeback victory.
Originally scheduled for 12:00 p.m., the game was moved to 3 p.m. to accommodate a live stream on the Big Ten Network. With Northwestern needing to catch the late-night flight out of Lincoln, they decided on a “drop dead” time of 5:50 p.m. If the game were still being played at that time, the score would revert to the previous inning.
After Northwestern took the lead in the top of the 7th, the Cornhuskers loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom half. Wood got two quick outs, but there was still one out left to get as the clock struck 5:47. If the Cornhusker batting had reached, she would have sent the game past curfew and handed Nebraska the lead they had held in the sixth. Luckily for the 'Cats, shortstop Andrea Filler made a great #SCTopTen-quality diving catch in the hole to end the game, snaring Northwestern their 21st victory of the season. That clutch play actually ended up making it to number three on Sports Center's Top Ten plays.
The Wildcats will return home for their final homestand of the season Wednesday. They’ll play back to back Big Ten series and a non-conference tilt with DePaul, taking on Illinois for two games and Ohio State for three as they hope to clinch a bye for the Big Ten Tournament.