Kristen Wood dominated Senior Weekend at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.
With the Wildcats honoring seniors in their last home series of the year, the junior pitcher flirted with a no-hitter Friday and shut down the Buckeye offense Sunday as Northwestern (24-19, 12-7 B1G) took two out of three against Ohio State (26-21, 9-11 B1G).
A steady rain wreaked havoc on an and off the field to start game one on Friday. After drenched equipment forced the Big Ten Network to cut their broadcast, both pitchers struggled to command a wet softball. Wood walked a tightrope around two walks and a hit-by-pitch for a scoreless first but OSU's Olivia O'Reilly couldn't escape as easily. Two wild pitches and two Buckeye errors paved the way for a 4-0 first inning Wildcat lead. After O'Reilly walked the bases loaded, freshman Samantha Nettling, returning after over a month lost to injury, shot a ball right through the shorstop's legs to bring home a pair. Senior Julia Kuhn promptly bounced an almost identical grounder through the second baseman's legs to score another two.
By the third innning, Wood was dealing. After walking the leadoff hitter, 2014's Big Ten strikeout leader punched out the Buckeye's three hitter, Maddy McIntyre, swinging. The next batter went down staring at a riseball. The third flailed through an offspeed pitch to end the inning.
Kuhn split the outfielders on a two run double in the fourth as Northwestern pushed to an 8-0 lead. With a scoreless fifth, Wood could run-rule Ohio State.
But that's where Wood's no-hit bid came to the end. After a leadoff walk, the Buckeyes' Cammi Pranti laced a single to center that dropped just in front of a sliding freshman Sabrina Rabin. Ohio State strung together two more runs before Wood set down the side on her eighth strikeout of the year. NU withstood a late Ohio State surge to hang on for a 9-7 series opening win.
After Northwestern took a 4-3 lead in the second inning Saturday, rain chased both the Wildcats and Buckeyes from the field. Twenty-mile-per-hour winds were gusting when they returned for a doubleheader Sunday, foretelling a wild day as Northwestern and Ohio State traded homers and errors in a marathon affair.
The Buckeyes stormed to an 8-3 lead in the third off the back of a Taylor Watkins three-run blast. Ohio State went yard four times in this game, taking advantage of six Northwestern errors to drive in nine unearned runs.
The Wildcats caught breezes of their own in the fifth. Junior Andrea Filler and Nettlings launched back-to-back acks to grab a 14-12 lead in the fourth. An inning later, senior Olivia Dheur belted a mammoth shot off the roof of McGraw Hall, becoming the first player in Northwestern history to homer off roof three times in her career.
However, it wasn't enough to stop Ohio State's onslaught and the Wildcat's defensive miscues. The Buckeyes scored four in the sixth and four in the seventh for a 20-17 victory.
Calmer winds brought smooth sailing and a 9-3 victory for the Wildcats in game three. Returning to the mound, Wood was even sharper than she was Friday. She whiffed seven of the first nine batters she faced. Her only miscue of the game came on a fourth inning homer to Cammi Prantl as the junior struck out nine in a complete game perfromance.
Senior Andrea DiPrima kept the Wildcats ahead all game. The Wildcats' leading hitter narrowly scored on a first inning wild pitch and drove in three on two RBI singles and RBI walk.
The win pushes the Wildcats to 12-6 in conference play as they compete with Illinois (12-7) for the 4th seed and a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. They can improve their position next weekend in Iowa, after they take on DePaul in their last home game of the year Wednesday.