letourneau
Amy Letourneau, fresh off an 8-RBI game against New Mexico State and a solid pitching performance against UCLA, leads the Wildcats into the Judi Garman Classic. Photo credit: Meghan White, Daily Northwestern

By: Tim Hackett  

This weekend, Northwestern softball journeys out to the West Coast to participate in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California. The Wildcats are 7-7 this year, 1-4 against ranked opponents, and will see two more ranked foes over the next three days. NU has played fairly well this season, with a team batting average of .315 and a team ERA of 4.06. They’ve scored an average of 7.1 runs per game, while they’ve allowed 4.9 runs per contest.

In their first game of the Garman Classic, the Wildcats get another shot at Fresno State. The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs are 12-3 on the year and defeated Northwestern 6-4 in eight innings last Saturday. Freshman infielder Dominque Jackson powers the Bulldog offense, leading the team in batting average (.421), homers (5) and RBI (11). Junior Lindsey Willmon has also turned in a solid year, batting .295 with three homers and team-high 13 runs scored. Meanwhile, senior Jill Compton is a bona fide ace in the circle: the right-hander has made nine appearances (eight starts), and has compiled a 7-1 record, a 1.47 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 57.0 innings. Opponents are hitting just .227 against her. She pitched all eight innings and picked up the win in Fresno State’s victory over Northwestern last weekend.

Later Friday, the Wildcats will match up with Long Beach State. The 49ers currently sit at 9-7 and are led offensively by senior infielder Darian Tautalafua, who sports a .360 average, five homers and 15 RBI on the year in addition to her awesome name. Long Beach State features two solid starters in freshman Cielo Meza and junior Christina Clermont. They’ve combined for all of the Beach’s nine wins, and Meza seems a bit more impressive with a season ERA of 2.78 and 52 strikeouts in just 45.1 innings pitched. Whichever pitcher Northwestern faces will be a tough draw, as opponents are hitting just .245 off them combined.

Northwestern starts Saturday against struggling San Jose State. The Spartans sit at 5-13, and enter the weekend on a five-game losing streak. Interestingly, the Spartans have lost via the run rule five times this year, while four of their five wins have also come via the run rule. San Jose State is led offensively by sophomore outfielder Brittany Abacherli, who sports a .333 average with three homers, 16 RBI, and five steals. Senior Jessica Madrid paces the squad with an even .400 batting average in 55 at bats. As their record suggests, most of the Spartans’ struggles have come from the mound. Their team ERA is 9.52, and they only have two pitchers with ERAs below 10.00. Freshman Chantelle Ladner is the most impressive: in seven starts, she’s compiled a 3-5 record with a 7.49 ERA and 13 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .360 off Spartan pitchers, and, honestly, San Jose State represents an opponent Northwestern should defeat.

On Saturday night Northwestern will take on Cal State Fullerton, the hosts of the tournament. The Titans are currently 11-6 and have already won their first two games of the Garman Classic. The Titans aren’t a power hitting team, collecting just five dingers (contrasted with Northwestern’s 17) in their first 17 games. Offensively, Fullerton features senior outfielders Sarah Moore, (.373 average, 14 RBI), and Courtney Rodriguez, who has knocked in 12 runs and also stolen nine bases. The Titans also have two solid starting pitchers, right-handed freshman Sydney Golden and senior lefty Desiree Ybarra, who have combined for all but two of Fullerton’s starts. Golden has picked up six wins in nine appearances while sporting a team-best 2.58 ERA, while Ybarra is 3-4 with a team-high 33 punchouts in 44.1 innings.

After facing Fresno State Friday, Northwestern will close its tournament Sunday morning against another ranked foe in Arizona State. The 19th-ranked Sun Devils are 15-4 on the year, but they’ve lost to Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, both teams Northwestern will face over the weekend. ASU is batting .367 as a team, led by sophomore outfielder Nichole Chilson’s .477 clip. Chilson has also contributed three homers and 16 RBI, but the main run-producer is junior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales. Gonzales leads the team with six homers and 22 RBI, but she also sports a .412 average and has drawn 12 walks. Arizona State only has three players that have appeared in the circle, but that hasn’t seemed to hurt them at all: the Sun Devils’ staff has a 2.74 ERA and a remarkable opponent batting average of .255. The ace of the staff is redshirt junior Kelsey Kessler, who leads the team with five wins, an ERA of 1.80, 60 strikeouts in 50.2 innings, and an opponent batting average of just .199. Arizona State’s sophomore duo of Dale Ryndak and Breanna Macha don’t represent much of a step down, however.

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