HOOSIERS PLAY VERY WELL BUT LOSE DIFFICULT DECISION TO WILDCATS, 2-1
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Bloomington, Ind. - Tied 1-1 with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth inning, Indiana (14-20 overall, 0-8 Big Ten) looked to be in the driver's seat as it attempted to capture its first Big Ten win of the season during today's tilt against Northwestern at the IU Softball Field. Yet, it was the Wildcats (23-11, 5-5 Big Ten) who worked out of the bases loaded jam and scored the game-winning run on a Kristen Amegin double in the bottom of the sixth on their way to earning a 2-1 victory. Indiana returns to action at the IU Softball Field on Sunday when it hosts a doubleheader against 24th-ranked Illinois beginning at noon.
"That was the best game we have played all season," said first-year head coach Sara Hayes. "Our staff is very encouraged because the more challenges we present to our players the more effectively they respond. We have continually asked them to be aggressive in the field and at the plate and they continue to do so. Today, we did a much better job adjusting to the speed of Northwestern."
With the score tied 1-1 after 5 1/2 innings, Northwestern, the designated home team in today's contest, took advantage of three base hits to push across the winning run. Senior relief pitcher Lauren Schwendimann, who entered the game with no outs and two runners on in the top of the sixth, retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.
For the Wildcats in the sixth, leftfielder Brett Nakabayashi led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by rightfielder Erin Mobley. Now with one out, first baseman Jamie Dotson singled sharply but IU senior centerfielder Katie Joy unleashed a tremendous throw to the plate that cut down Nakabayahsi, who was attempting to score from second. Indiana sophomore Katie Witham could not work out of the inning, however, as Amegin doubled to score Jessie Wellnitz, who had pinch run for Dotson.
Despite allowing the run in the sixth, Witham (4-9) turned in her second consecutive impressive performance for the Hoosiers, allowing eight hits and two earned runs, while walking one and striking out three, in six innings pitched.
"I entered the last two games with the approach that I don't have anything to lose," said Witham. "I am definitely pitching with more confidence. My drop was my most effective pitch today."
Northwestern started senior Brie Brown, who entered the game with a 5-1 record. The righthander was very effective through five innings prior to running into trouble in the sixth. After shortstop Heather Suca reached on an infield error and catcher Stormy Hanson singled to center to lead off the sixth, Schwendimann (8-4), who did not allow a hit in her two innings pitched while striking out three, walked Abby Stark, the first hitter she faced, to load the bases. After junior Heather Stillians struck out looking, pinch hitter Lauren Hines grounded to first and Suca was forced out at home on the fielder's choice. Now with two outs, Schwendimann retired Joy on yet another fielder's choice to end the inning as the IU senior grounded to third. Amegin stepped on the bag to force out Stark to end the inning.
Indiana tallied a single run to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. With one out, Suca singled to left field. After Hanson flew out for the second out of the inning, Suca stole second base and scored on a single by Stark.
Indiana's lead didn't last long as the Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the first on a ground out by Mobley. Second baseman Carri Leto, who led off yesterday's contest with a triple, greeted Witham with a double to centerfield. After Nakabayashi singled, Leto scored from third to tie the game, 1-1.