Softball: Seattle Regional Preview
The Week That Was
Northwestern learned clearly that six innings of softball isn’t enough to win games. In the Wildcats’ 1-1 showing in the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern pitchers threw 12 scoreless innings. They gave up 9 runs combined in the other two innings, however: four in the 5th against Michigan State and five in the 3rd against Wisconsin. Northwestern was able to recover nicely against the Spartans, taking advantage of a timely MSU error, some walks, and a Paige Tonz grand slam and putting up six runs in their half of the 5th en route to a 10-4 victory. Against Wisconsin, it was a different story, as Northwestern’s bats could never make up the deficit.
Nothing is new in this department. Northwestern is one of the elite offenses not only in the B1G, but in the entire country, and they proved it at the Big Ten tourney. In the 10-run explosion against Michigan State, 9 RBI came from south of the seven spot in the order. Andrea Filler knocked in 5 runs and Tonz drove in 4 with one swing. On a night where the meat of the order didn’t deliver like they normally do (spots 3-6 in the batting order went a combined 1-for-11), Northwestern got big contributions from other places. Emily Allard and Mari Majam were terrors on the base paths and Northwestern was still able to light up the scoreboard thanks to some timely long balls and a hefty wind blowing out to right.
Against Wisconsin, Northwestern couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it. The team had eight hits total, but scored only four runs and stranded 10 runners. Wisconsin’s Taylor-Paig Steward and Cassandra Darrah combined to put 15 purple shirts on the base paths on eight hits, two walks, and an astounding five hit batters. It took the Badger pitching staff 126 pitches to get through six innings. Chalk up the Cats scoring just four runs to bad luck.
It’s easy to oversimplify pitching by saying it’s just a matter of throwing the ball over the plate. Sometimes, it’s just that simple. Against the worst-hitting team in the Big Ten, all Kristen Wood and Nicole Bond needed to do was dare the Spartans to put the ball in play. They failed to do that. Although all four Spartan runs came on a Sarah Bowling grand slam, Wood and Bond continually fell behind hitters and put hitters on base. NU’s pitchers walked four a piece and hit two more. To make matters worse, three of those walks came against the bottom two hitters in the Spartan order, who hit .164 and .091 respectively. It’s hard to justify this lack of control against the light-hitting Spartans.
Against Wisconsin, Kristen Wood had better command. The sophomore hurler only walked one and hit another in six innings of work. An untimely Anna Edwards error led to four unearned runs in the third inning, and even though Wood didn’t allow another run, the damage was already done. Wood’s lack of command in round one was unsettling, but she undoubtedly pitched better against the Badgers. Still, it is hard to argue that the Wildcat pitchers are of the same caliber of the hitters, which will need to change if the team wants to make a postseason run.
Now, Michael Stern takes a look at the three other teams in the Seattle double-elimination regional: Washington, BYU, and Iona.
The Washington Huskies finished the season 33-13, 13-9 in the Pac-12 conference, and are the 12th seed nationally and top seed in the regional. Norhtwestern beat the Huskies 4-2 in an early-season game, and Washington also shared eight opponents with Northwestern. Against common opponents, Washington went 7-4, while Northwestern went 8-8. Notably, the Huskies beat Baylor and took two of three from Stanford, both teams the Wildcats lost to. Washington also beat Wisconsin, a team that split four games with NU this year. Victoria Hayward sets the table for the Huksy offense. She’s hitting .424, has scored 44 runs, and has stolen 27 bases. Kylee Lahners is the main RBI-threat for Washington; she leads the team with 17 homers and 59 RBIs. Like Northwestern, Washington boasts an incredibly deep offense (their team batting average is .326), but their pitching isn’t shabby either. Bryana Walker and Kaitlin Ingelsby form a dominant one-two punch in the circle. Walker finished the season 18-8 with a 1.68 ERA and 139 strikeouts in just over 137 innings, while Ingelsby posted a 13-4 record and a 2.06 ERA, striking out 111 in just over 132 innings. Having two superb starters will help the Huskies immensely in the double-elimination regional format.
The Brigham Young Cougars (33-21 overall, 12-2 and champions of the West Coast Conference) are the third seed in the regional. Washington trounced the Cougars 8-0 earlier this year, so the Huskies are likely hoping BYU can get past Northwestern in game one. Against common opponents, BYU went 0-5 while Northwestern went 3-3. NU beat Utah and San Diego State, while BYU lost close games to the Aztecs and Utes. BYU’s team average is .291, much lower than Washington’s. BYU has three main offensive weapons: catcher Sydney Broderick leads the team with a .365 average and 61 hits and has also driven in 31 runs, second baseman McKenzie St. Clair is second on the team with a .356 average, 53 hits, and 34 RBI, and first baseman Katie Manuma leads the team with 37 runs scored, 12 homers, and 49 RBI, despite her .260 average. BYU also has two pitchers. McKenna Bull is 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and 191 strikeouts in just over 163 innings, while Tori Almond has supported Bull nicely with a 10-6 record, a 2.14 ERA, and 121 strikeouts in 121 innings.
The Iona Gaels are the fourth seed in the region and share no common opponents with the Wildcats. Iona is 24-22 on the season, and reached the tournament with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s automatic bid. The Gaels have a .318 team average, but their offense has three key hitters, like BYU. Rightfielder Eileen McCann leads the team with a .416 average, 35 runs scored, and 4 triples. Centerfielder Allison Hand leads the team with 14 doubles and 55 hits, and is second on the team with 8 homers and 32 RBI. First baseman Kristen Turner leads the team with 11 homers and 51 RBI. Iona also uses a two-pitcher rotation. Carly Argyle is 15-8 with a 3.53 ERA and 134 strikeouts. Jordan Courage supports Argyle, but has managed only a 7-12 record, a 4.63 ERA, and 49 strikeouts in just over 93 innings.