Softball falls to Northwestern, 2-0, in NCAA Regional play.
May 18, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Freshman Amy Letourneau tossed a complete-game shutout to lead the Northwestern softball team to a 2-0 victory against No. 8/8 Texas in the opening game of the NCAA Austin Regional on Friday afternoon at Red and Charline McCombs Field.
With Friday's win, regional fourth-seed Northwestern (28-27) advances to Saturday's winner's bracket game at Noon Central against Houston. The Cougars posted a 2-1 win against Auburn in earlier action on Friday. Top-seed Texas (42-11) will play in an elimination game on Saturday at 3 p.m. Central against Auburn. The Texas-Auburn contest will be broadcast live by Longhorn Network. The winner of the Texas-Auburn contest will turn around and face the loser of the Northwestern-Houston matchup in a second elimination game at 6 p.m. Central.
Letourneau (12-9) went the distance and allowed five hits, while striking out five and walking nine. She threw 134 pitches on the afternoon. Junior All-America pitcher Blaire Luna (18-5) took the loss for the Longhorns, working 7.0 innings and allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out 14 and walking one. The 14 strikeouts tied a postseason career high for Luna, matching her total in a 6-0 victory against Iona on May 20, 2010.
Northwestern struck first with a single run in the top of the first inning. Emily Allard led off the frame with a single to left field. With two outs, Allard stole second and came home on a Marissa Bast RBI single.
The Wildcats added to their cushion with a run on three hits in the fifth. Kristin Scharkey led off the inning with an infield single. Allard followed with another infield single, and Mari Majam hit an RBI single to left field to bring home Scharkey.
Texas threatened in the bottom of the fifth. The Longhorns used a trio of walks to Lexy Bennett, Nadia Taylor and Torie Schmidt to load the bases with two outs, but Letourneau retired Taylor Thom on a groundout to short to end the frame.
UT again rallied in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, the Longhorns used singles from Courtney Craig and pinch-hitter Gabby Smith along with a Schmidt walk to load the bases. Letourneau retired Taylor Thom on a fly out to right field to end the contest.
Texas left 13 runners on base in the defeat. Bennett paced the UT offense by going 2-for-2 with two walks. Allard and Majam each had two hits for Northwestern.
Texas Post-Game Quotes
Head Coach Connie Clark
Opening statement: It is painful but we have to come back. We have been in this position and we have the firepower to do it. We had a great batting force, we lost some opportunities with 13 runners on base. We can't do that in a ball game. Northwestern did a nice job in using the strike zone nicely.
On whether the Northwestern pitcher did something different when players were at base: Her approach was not different. Some of our hitters had good looks but they did not have the timing lines, which is what it comes down to. The game is the game, it is unfortunate, it is painful, but you have to cash in on opportunities.
On the mindset for the rest of the regional: We have been in these scenarios before, several times this year. The Texas A&M series comes to mind. You go to their place, we are down then we come back in the series. That is what we have to do. We have to go to battle. We have to come back and compete hard. It is the ultimate challenge, they are up for it. We will fight like heck tomorrow.
Junior pitcher Blaire Luna
On her ability to generate strikeouts: They did a good job, the first two hitters were great at putting the ball in play during critical situations. I try to stay ahead with each hitter; I think that helps with the strikeouts.
Senior second baseman Lexy Bennett
On Northwestern pitcher Amy Letourneau: I think she did a good job of keeping the ball down which makes it harder to hit any extra base hits or runners. Our hitters did a good job seeing her with the pitches and being selective, they may not have gotten the pitches that they wanted, but she did a good job moving in and out
On the mindset for the rest of the competition: We need to bounce back. We are hungry. We are going to bounce back. It is not out of our reach.
On the positives of this game: We did a good job defensively. We had some really good hits; we did a good job at playing small ball. We had runners on, you can't complain.
Northwestern Post-Game Quotes
Head Coach Kate Drohan
Opening statement: Since Sunday, we have been excited about the opportunity to compete in to the NCAA tournament. I have been impressed with the team's focus not only since Sunday, but in the last few weeks. We have had great composure down the stretch when placed in these positions and that continued today. We played with a great balance of emotion and focus. (Amy) Letourneau, got in some jams then got herself out, that was really good to see. She came out with some big hits and pitches. (Blaire) Luna has a great wrist. She did a great job moving the ball around the zone. We took advantage of a couple of opportunities. We are ready for tomorrow.
On how important it was to get the first run: That was key to get comfortable on the field. I thought that set the tempo for the game.
On Blaire Luna: She did a nice job with the middle of our order. We were able to muscle through, that is what this time of year is about that big hit or that big pitch. I had a chance to work with Blaire with the National Team and she is a very special pitcher. I was impressed with her grittiness with the middle of the order.
On our words to the team during the fifth inning: I said to continue to be ourselves. We have been playing a very fast, high level of ball all year. We have challenged ourselves up until the very last game. It is about us being ourselves and not hurrying anything...to trust our stuff.
Freshman pitcher Amy Letourneau
On the team's ability to stay focused during tough moments: For the past couple of weeks, we have been focus on attacking the batters, attacking what we know is their weakness and getting ahead. We have been during our best to put it all out there. That emotion that we felt Sunday night, we learned that we were going to be able to experience this, we pulled that emotion and decided to play with that this weekend. I wanted to focus on getting ahead and letting my defense play. They did a great job behind me today, everyone came with the play we needed.
Sophomore outfielder Mari Majam
On the impact of speed: In this last year, it has become very important for me. It opens up a lot of holes in the defense. It makes the game go faster which makes other teams uncomfortable. We use that to our advantage. It helps our game.