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Photos by Ed Muniz
 

Wildcats starting pitcher Kristen Wood winds and delivers her pitch during her 18th victory on the season on May 4 in Evanston.

 

NU sweeps away Michigan St.

LeBeau, Wood lead way in game 3 win
 

By Charlie Lettner

 
Northwestern was a rude host to Michigan State last weekend.
 
After dominating the Spartans in shortened 8-0 and 9-1 wins in the first two games of the series, the Wildcats again displayed too much diamond skill for their guests. Northwestern denied the visitors their last chance for a regular season win in Evanston with a 6-2 score May 4 at Drysdale Field.
 
The win made it an extra special Senior Day for pitcher Sammy Albanese, IF/OF Emily Allard, IF Marisa Bast, IF/OF Mari Majam, and four-year starting catcher Paige Tonz, who were honored in front of their family and friends.
 
Northwestern players starred on the mound and at the plate. Former Richards High School-standout Brianna LeBeau showed her power by jacking a pitch that hit the stairwell of Welsh Ryan Arena beyond the left field wall. She contributed three RBI, two runs and walked twice in the win.
 



Brianna LeBeau focuses in the batters box prior to her 3-run homer that propelled the Wildcats to their 6-2 win over Michigan State.

When talking of her 3-run homer, LeBeau said: “Previously in the series the same pitcher got me a couple times on an inside pitch. I was anticipating it this time and got my hands out nice and drove it.”

Sometimes local student-athletes put undue pressure on themselves to perform at a high level but not LeBeau. The converted pitcher/shortstop has gelled as a Wildcat and feels right at home and secure in her decision of selecting Northwestern as her college choice.
 
“I really don’t feel any pressure," she said. "I visited here in my sophomore year and knew the next day this is where I wanted to be, and committed. I feel I made the best decision and am so happy with it. Couldn’t be at a better place.”
 
Michigan St. could not find the answer for Kristen Wood (18-8). Along the way, the NU pitcher struck out the side once in six innings of work. Her final totals included one run on three hits, nine strikeouts and three walks.
 
“I am definitely happy with the results,” said Wood. “We hit a bump not too long ago, but as a team we are now coming out of it. Our offense is very strong, but we also have quality pitching. Right now I think we are heading into the Big Ten Tournament very confident and ready.”
 
For the seventh and final inning, the Wildcats brought in senior Sammy Albanese, who finished her final regular season home game for the Wildcats.  Albanese gave up one hit and a run, but got locked in to finish the victory.
 

Head coach Kate Drohan chats with senior Mari Majam at third base during the Wildcats 6-2 Senior Day win over Michigan State.

 
For Wildcats head coach Kate Drohan, the signs of the recent slump appeared to have disappeared. The change couldn’t have come at a better time.
 
“We went into the tank together (hitting and pitching)," she said. "We are a team of momentum. When we do anything we do it together.
 
"We did not bring our “A” game to Columbus and it leaked into the DePaul game. But we finally got organized, and we’re playing our (brand of) softball again. Good teams make that slump nice and short, and I feel our maturity helped us rebound right away.”
 
Next up, the Wildcats host the Big Ten Tournament.
 
“I think what’s key in the upcoming tournament is we need great leadership from the mound," Drohan said. "We had that these last three games. And another thing, our older players need to step up and their production has been great.
 
“We are excited to be playing at home and so excited to be playing under lights. We have people that worked their tail off. We are going to take it one game at a time. In the Big Ten, every game is important.”
 
The Wildcats open the Big Ten Tourney as the 5th seed and will once again meet Michigan State, the 12th seed, at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 8). The contest will be the first home game under the lights.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule