Alex Booker had three productive plate appearances, with two singles and a sacrifice bunt.
April 7, 2013
Evanston, Ill. - The Fighting Illini led 1-0 for the first half of the game, but Northwestern put up seven unanswered runs to complete the series sweep with a 7-1 victory. With the win, Northwestern improves to 19-14 (5-3 Big Ten), while Illinois falls to 11-21 (1-8 Big Ten).
Illinois leftfielder Alex Booker, batting second for the first time this season, led the Illini at the plate going 2-for-3 with the sacrifice bunt that helped manufacture the Illini's run in the first. Allie Bauch, replacing Booker at the top of the order, walked twice, stole a base and scored; and Jessica Davis had the lone Illinois RBI with a single in the top of the first. Jess Perkins also singled in the first inning to keep the productive early frame alive, and Remeny Perez got on base all three times, with two walks and a hit by pitch.
Mari Majam was a force to be reckoned with at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a run and sacrifice bunt. Marisa Bast had the most productive swing of the game, going 2-for-4 with a grand slam, and Andrea DiPrima and Amy Letourneau each also went deep.
Letourneau picked up the complete-game victory for the Wildcats, allowing four hits and seven walks but striking out eight and holding Illinois to just one run. Shelese Arnold hurled the first 4.1 innings, allowing all seven hits and seven runs while striking out four. Pepper Gay threw 1.2 solid frames of relief, walking three but rendering the Wildcats hit- and run-less with two strikeouts.
"Shelese pitched with a purpose today and kept the lead for four innings," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Pepper was strong and gutsy in relief.
"I liked that after two days of no offense, we came out and scored first. It still comes down to getting some key hits with runners on. But, we had the fight today."
The Illini got things going quickly in the top of the first. Allie Bauch, hitting leadoff for the first time since Feb. 24, was aboard with a full count walk. She stole second, and Alex Booker bunted her over to third. Jessica Davis drove in Bauch with an RBI single through the right side, and Jess Perkins kept things going with a single to left. Remeny Perez drew another full count walk to load the bases. Brittany Sanchez did her job, hitting the ball to the outfield, but centerfielder Kristin Scharkey rocketed the ball home to get Davis tagging up to end the inning with a double play.
The Wildcats threatened in the bottom of the first, with runners on first and third and one out, but a great play from Davis to Jenna Mychko to get the lead runner at the plate on a slow roller to short kept NU off the board, as Illinois led 1-0 after one.
Arnold's 2-2 pitch just grazed Letourneau's jersey for a one-out baserunner in the fourth, and Andrea DiPrima took advantage, driving a two-run shot over the wall in left to put Northwestern ahead, 2-1.
Northwestern broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth, as Olivia Duehr started it off with a one-out walk. Scharkey was hit by a pitch, and Majam loaded the bases with a check-swing single over third base. Marisa Bast then changed the course of the game with one swing, hooking a line drive just inside the leftfield foul pole for the second grand slam of the series. Amy Letourneau followed up with a solo blast to center, putting NU ahead, 7-1, and chasing Arnold from the circle. Pepper Gay came in in relief, getting a fly out and a strikeout to end the inning.
The Illini had a chance to get some back in the top of the sixth, as Letourneau hit Perez and walked Mychko and Nicole Tobon to load the bases. Sami Estill then stepped up the plate for her first career at-bat as a member of the Orange and Blue. Facing a high-pressure situation with two outs and three on, Estill put the ball in the play, but couldn't find a hole, grounding to short for the final out.
The Wildcats had a similar threat in the bottom half of the inning as three walks loaded the bases for Bast with two outs. Bast fouled off five pitches, but Gay finally got one past her on the 10th pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with no additional score.
Booker singled through the right side with one out in the top of the seventh, but Letourneau got the final two outs to complete the sweep with a 7-1 victory.
Illinois returns home on Tuesday, April 9, hosting in-state foe Eastern Illinois in a non-conference contest beginning at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast live online on Fighting Illini All-Access.