Northwestern’s (27-28, 15-8 B1G) season came to an end Saturday, after winning the first but dropping the last two games of the double-elimination NCAA Tournament Athens Regional.
The Wildcats continued their run of late-season success with a 2-1 victory over Oklahoma State (32-26, 6-11 Big 12) on Friday. Kristen Wood started the game for the ’Cats by allowing one unearned run in the first inning due to a Sammy Nettling throwing error, but cracked on from then on. Wood tossed four innings of one-run, three-hit ball before being replaced by Amy Letourneau. Letourneau took care of the final three frames, and earned her 15th win of the year, allowing just one hit and striking out four in the process.
NU leveled the game 1-1 just one inning after the Cowboys opened up their lead on a bunt single by Fran Strub, one of her two hits on the game. Both offenses were fairly quiet throughout, but Northwestern pulled in front by one in the seventh and final inning. With runners on second and third, Sabrina Rabin reached on an infield single to the catcher, knocking in the ever-involved Strub and advancing the other base-runner, Kristen Williams. Williams never crossed home plate, but it was no matter, the Wildcats were moving on.
Unfortunately for Northwestern, though, their fortune ran out in their first matchup on Saturday, dropping a 5-2 contest to No. 15 Georgia (43-18, 12-12 SEC). Wood started again for the ’Cats, but struggled against a more daunting Bulldog lineup. She allowed three hits and four runs and was yanked after just two innings of work. Three of the four runs came off Georgia home runs. A Letourneau longball in the seventh added some respectability to the scoreline, but NU’s five-run deficit proved insurmountable. The Bulldogs trotted on and the Wildcats were relegated to the loser’s bracket to take on Oklahoma State for another shot at Georgia to advance to the Super Regionals.
Northwestern’s final game, in the loser's bracket of the Regional, proved to be more exciting. The ’Cats, matching up with Oklahoma State again, found themselves instead on the losing end of this matchup, falling 3-2 in extra innings. NU handed the ball to Kenzie Ellis, but Letourneau replaced her after just 1 ⅓ innings. Letourneau finished the final 7 ⅔ innings of the game, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and taking her 11th loss of the season.
Oklahoma State jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning off an RBI groundout by Mandi Sue Montgomery, but Northwestern immediately answered in the bottom of the frame, tying the game with an Andrea Filler RBI single. Similarly, in the sixth inning, Oklahoma State jumped in front by one, again by virtue of a Montgomery groundout, only to be answered immediately in the bottom half of the frame by Anna Peterson, who knotted the game at two with a sacrifice fly.
But when the Cowboys pulled back in front 3-2 after a Filler throwing error, Northwestern was unable to answer. The Wildcats’ tumultuous, but rather exciting, season has officially come to a close, and now, after an encouraging second half of the campaign (primarily in conference play), the NU faithful can only look forward with optimism to next year.