In the final game of the regular season, Northwestern (24-28, 10-13 B1G) went out on a high note, defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes (19-31, 9-14 B1G) by a score of 5-2 to secure the series victory. After the win, the ‘Cats sit at No. 8 in the conference standings, and will stay there going into the Big Ten Tournament.
The ‘Cats also won by a score of 5-2 on Friday, but dropped a 7-6 battle on Saturday. This is Northwestern’s third Big Ten series win in its last four tries, giving them momentum they hope they can carry into the postseason.
On Friday, Kaley Winegarner threw her first complete-game win of the series, accruing five strikeouts compared to two walks. On the offensive side, Marissa Panko had two hits and three RBI to boost the ‘Cats after they fell into an early 2-0 hole.
Saturday easily provided the highest-scoring and most entertaining game of the series. Knotted at 6-6 after seven innings, the teams went scoreless until the bottom of the 11th, when a Brooke Rozier walk-off single sent the Hawkeyes home happy. Without Winegarner on the mound, Iowa was able to rack up seven runs in a balanced attack led by Allie Wood, Claire Fritsch, and Angela Schmiederer. In addition to being back-and-forth, the game was incredibly sloppy: both teams committed five errors, and only three of the game’s 13 runs were earned.
In the rubber match, the Wildcats jumped to a lead in the first that they would never relinquish, using some old-fashioned small ball. Leadoff outfielder Sabrina Rabin singled and promptly stole second before a bunt single from the third batter Marissa Panko but runners at first and third with one out. A sacrifice fly from Morgan Nelson brought Rabin in to score, and Panko scored via a combination of smart baserunning and a wild pitch.
Iowa cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning with a Lea Thompson triple and a Brooke Rozier sacrifice fly.
Following this early blemish, however, Wildcats pitcher Kaley Winegarner proceeded to throw another gem. Giving up only one walk and needing only two strikeouts, Winegarner shut the Hawkeyes down in not allowing a run until the 7th, when the outcome of the game was not in question. With two complete-game wins, Winegarner was undoubtedly the series’ most valuable player.
The ‘Cats didn’t need more runs, but the offense provided them for insurance. In the second inning, Brooke Marquez scored on a Krista Williams single, and in the seventh, Panko delivered with an RBI groundout before Rabin scored on another Nelson sac fly. Each of Northwestern’s first four batters in the lineup had two hits, while batters six through nine were held hitless.
Moving forward, the ‘Cats are guaranteed a spot in the 12-team B1G tournament field. They will play the No. 9 seed Purdue Boilermakers in the tournament’s first game at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 11 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Last month, Northwestern swept Purdue in a lopsided three-game series.