Coming off a tough 1-0 loss to Loyola, Northwestern needed a confidence-booster against Illinois in this weekend's series. The Wildcats got one, in the tune of a three-game sweep by the scores of 8-0, 8-0 and 7-1, the first two in mercy rule games. NU out-scored the Fighting Illini 23-1 over the course of the series and held them to just five hits, including a no-hitter in the first game and a one-hitter in the second game.
Game 1: Northwestern 8, Illinois 0 (5 innings)
Player of the game: Amy Letourneau
Doug Meffley Weather Report*: "Sun but Edmund Fitzgerald wind"
Pitcher Amy Letourneau threw her second no-hitter in as many weeks to lead the Wildcats to the win in the first game of the series. It was an unconventional no-hitter, to say the least, as she allowed 11 baserunners on 8 walks, 2 hit batters and 1 error, but she also struck out 8 en route to the easy win. Despite the no-hitter, Letourneau recognized that she has to work on her accuracy.
"We're working really hard on controlling my pitches and getting ahead in the count, and coming back at the batters and making the ball move," she said, "and I think it's going to go far."
Offensively, Marisa Bast and Olivia Duehr led the way, as Bast had two doubles and Duehr had a double and three RBIs.
Game 2: Northwestern 8, Illinois 0 (5 innings)
Players of the game: Mari Majam and Meghan Lamberth
Doug Meffley Weather Report: "Pirate Looks at 40 (mph winds)"
NU got another outstanding pitching performance in its second game, this time from Meghan Lamberth. Lamberth allowed just one hit and one other baserunner on an error in five innings of near-flawless work. And just like the first game, NU's offense came to play. The Wildcats got home runs from Mari Majam, Marisa Bast and Anna Edwards, and Majam had 4 RBIs. It was a dominating performance all around to take the series.
Game 3: Northwestern 7, Illinois 1
Player of the game: Marisa Bast
Doug Meffley Weather Report: "Beauty after the spring storm"
Amy Letourneau was on the mound once again for NU, but this one started a little differently than the no-hitter just two days before. Illinois got a run in the first inning, but Letourneau settled down and didn't let any other baserunner see home plate the rest of the game. The Illini held a 1-0 lead through three innings, but the Wildcats took the lead on an Andrea DiPrima two-run homer in the fourth.
NU broke things open in the fifth, as Marisa Bast hit a grand slam to put the Wildcats up 6-1, and Amy Letourneau hit a solo shot in the very next at-bat. Illinois' offense couldn't do anything to fight back, and NU closed out the series sweep. It was a good one to help the Wildcats' offense get back on track.
"I thought that, overall, we had excellent production with all 21 of our players," coach Kate Drohan said. "Our nine offensive hitters and our pitchers did an outstanding job. I thought we put a good gameplan together. But the overall feel of our team is very focused and very hungry, and I think that is how you put up big innings."
NU will face Illinois at home on Tuesday before hosting Iowa for a weekend series. A full schedule can be found at NUSports.com.
*This is my first time on the softball beat (we'll have coverage for the remainder of the season) and as I was running through the box scores again, I came across the weather reports for each game, and all of them were hilarious. Apparently sports information director Doug Meffley has a long tradition of putting together great weather reports. Therefore, to keep things light, we'll list the Doug Meffley weather report for each home game this year to give you a stunningly realistic idea of what it was like to be at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.