May 4, 2014
East Lansing, Mich. - - One big inning by the Wildcats was all they would need to post a 6-2 victory over MSU on Sunday afternoon to secure a sweep of the three-game series. Destinee Luna homered for MSU, while Sammy Albanese and Brianna LeBeau both hit round-trippers to account for five of the Wildcats' six runs. The teams will meet again on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans (12-36, 4-19 B1G) will be the No. 12 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament, which will bring MSU right back to Evanston next weekend. Northwestern will finishes fifth with a 14-9 Big Ten record.
The two teams are slated to meet in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. It will be the first-ever night game in the history of Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The complete bracket can be found at http://www.bigten.org.
"We played better today - we made a couple of errors that we would like back, but I thought today we squared up to the ball better, pitched better, and overall had a pretty good effort. Credit to Northwestern - Kristen Wood was very good today, and that's a good team. We essentially get a new start on Thursday with the Big Ten Tournament beginning, so with exams, graduations, and all that stuff behind us, Im looking forward to a week where we can focus just on softball and get ready for that."
Wood threw six innings for the Wildcats, scattering three hits and allowing just Luna's home run, and Albanese threw the seventh surrendering one hit and one run. Kelly Smith started the game and allowed two runs on three hits, while Kaff pitched four innings in relief and and surrendered four hits and four runs.
The home team took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Smith walked Brianna LeBeau on a full count to lead off the inning, and Sammy Albanese followed with a two-run homer to left to give the Wildcats an early lead. Smith went the two innings and surrendered three hits, but made way for Kaff in the third. Kaff allowed just one hit in each of her first two innings - both singles - to keep the Spartans in the ballgame.
Luna cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth inning, as she sent a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall for MSU's first hit of the day. After Kujawa and Sanders were retired, Sarah Bowling smacked a double to right center, and when Alyssa McBride singled to left, Bowling made the turn and went for home, but was gunned down by a strong throw by left fielder Mari Majam to throw her out at the plate.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats blew the game open. Majam was walked on three pitches to open the frame, and Marisa Bast was hit by a pitch to put a pair of runners on with no outs. Anna Edwards followed with a single to center, and an error allowed each of the runners to advance, putting runners on second and third after Majam scored to make it 3-1. LeBeau came to the plate and hit the first pitch over the left field wall for a three- run shot that doubled Northwestern's lead to 6-1. DiPrima singled, but Albanese followed with a fielder's choice for the first out of the inning. After Tonz singled through the right side to put a pair of runners on, Kuhn reached on a fielder's choice, as Kujawa gunned down the lead runner (Albanese) at third. Kaff retired Emily Allard to end the inning, but the Wildcats did plenty of damage, turning MSU's one-run deficit into a 6-1 game.
Kaff worked a scoreless sixth for MSU, but Wood had also settled into a rhythm and had allowed just one MSU baserunner - a walk to Luna - in the fifth and sixth innings. Albanese replaced Wood in the circle for the seventh inning in an effort to close it out for NU, and Bowling led off with a line out to second. McBride walked, and Shanin Thomas reached on a fielder's choice to bring up Gutknecht with two outs. Gutknecht sent a shot to right center for a double, plating Thomas to cut the lead to 6-2. Freimuth grounded out to end the inning, and as a result the MSU regular season.