Former WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes a look at the Northwestern Wildcats softball team and the youth that could catapult them to the top of the Big Ten.This weekend, the Northwestern softball team honored its seniors at Sharon J. Drysdale Field by sweeping the Purdue Boilermakers and bringing themselves into a virtual tie with the Minnesota Golden Gophers for the fourth spot in the Big Ten Conference.
Seniors Kristin Scharkey and Meghan Lamberth both excelled for the ‘Cats in their final home conference games. Scharkey had two RBI’s in the sixth inning of Friday’s 6-4 victory and a triple and a run scored in Saturday’s 4-1 win. Lamberth dominated the Boilermakers with her sick changeup Saturday, allowing only one run on eight hits with no walks while going the full seven innings.
Certainly those two will be missed heading forward. It’s hard to replace your lead-off hitter, center fielder and No. 2 pitcher all at once. However, this team is built for the long haul and is going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years. DARE I SAY BIG TEN CONTENDERS?? Sure, why not. It’s Monday, and I’m bored. Leeeeegggo.
Amy Letourneau – P/1B/MACHINE
I saw a lot of bizarre things this weekend (Exhibit A and Exhibit B). But, Amy Letourneau’s in-conference batting stats trumped all of that. During Big Ten play, Letourneau is hitting a stupid .491 (27-55) with eight doubles, five homers and 22 RBI’s in 19 games. Her .909 slugging percentage and .588 on-base percentage combine for a 1.497 OPS that will make all of the shorties in da club jelly. Oh, and she has only struck out five times compared to 11 walks. Because science.
I may or may not have left out the information that she’s one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten. Minor detail. In addition to two no-hitters, she has 253 strikeouts on the year, already the eighth most in a single season in Northwestern history.
(Side note: the Northwestern record-holder, Lisa Ishikawa, struck out 469 batters in 1984, which stood as the NCAA record until a few years ago. She threw 14 no-hitters in her career, or one every 8.5 starts. I feel sufficiently incompetent now.)
Letourneau, a sophomore, still has more than half of her career left, and she’s already dominant both at the plate and in the circle. Nineteen wins as a pitcher and a WAR of roughly 15 bajillion as a hitter? Luscious.
Marisa Bast – 3B
“Jim, why are you writing about Marisa Bast again?” “BECAUSE I WANT TO, GOSH DARN IT.”
After being a home run away from the Big Ten triple crown last year, #BastMode is back at it. She currently sits seventh in runs scored (42), sixth in RBI’s (42), fourth in home runs (11) and ninth in total bases (95). When you have players like Scharkey and Mari Majam that always seem to be on base in front of Bast, you have a potent offensive formula. Bast is a junior, and her 29 career home runs are already eighth in Northwestern history and her 132 RBI’s seventh. Lawd have mercy.
Anna Edwards – SS
Okay, so, let’s go through the Northwestern batting order first:
1) Scharkey – RUNS REAL FAST WEEEE
2) Majam – .353/.405/.438 ALL UP IN YO GRILL
3) Bast – duck and cover
4) Letourneau – LOLZ @ Big Ten pitching
Then you get to Anna Edwards. Edwards’ average is 59.9 percent higher than it was last year (.331 from .207), her extra base hits up 90 percent (19 from 10) and her RBI’s up 77 percent (39 from 22). Oh, yeah, and she’s a sophomore, just like Letourneau. Edwards also happens to be slugging .655 in conference with four home runs. I have a feeling that pitchers forced to face this line-up have reactions similar to this guy’s.
The rest of the order includes Brianna LeBeau, a freshman who had a pair of extra base hits this weekend; Paige Tonz, a junior who has caught every game the last two years; Andrea DiPrima, a sophomore who is third on the team with a .344 batting average and 15 extra base hits; and Olivia Duehr who is one of only two players to have two “roof shots” on the top of Welsh-Ryan Arena (the other being Adrienne Monka).
ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT they will be getting back All-Big Ten shortstop Emily Allard next year, assuming she is granted her medical hardship waiver for this year. She has a career .405 batting average with 117 stolen bases. Hella balls freaking awesome, dude. This team is going to be fun to watch for a long time to come.