Northwestern rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat the Lady Vol softball team, 5-2, in the semifinal round of the Louisville Slugger Tournament on Saturday night. With the victory, the Wildcats (2-2) advance to tomorrow's title tilt against Florida Atlantic (4-0). Meanwhile, UT (2-2) will meet No. 25 South Florida (0-4) in the consolation game of the event. The Lady Vols topped the Bulls last night, 4-3.
With the score deadlocked at 2-2 heading into the last stanza, NU sophomore catcher J.C. Kira led off with a single to center off Lady Vol junior Stephanie Humphrey. The next batter, senior Rane Gunderson, executed a sacrifice bunt to push junior pinch runner Jessie Wellnitz over to second. After a free pass was issued to sophomore Brett Nakabayashi, sophomore Carri Leto sent a double to the right field fence to plate Wellnitz with the go-ahead run.
Soon after, Humphrey picked the wrong time to unload a wild pitch, causing Nakabayashi to come across and move Leto over to third. Senior Erin Jancic then stepped in and roped another two-bagger to give the 'Cats an insurance run to make the margin 5-2. Sophomore reliever Crystal Bobo came in for Humphrey and prevented further harm by having freshman Erin Mobley line into a double play.
The Wildcats came flying out of the gates, plating two runs on four consecutive singles off Humphrey to begin the contest. Nakabayashi laced a leadoff base-hit into left field and then swiped second base on a close play. Another single into shallow left by Leto pushed her teammate to third before Leto took second base on catcher's indifference. Jancic then placed a bunt in a spot that Tennessee could not reach, helping her both of her teammates come across for the 2-0 lead.
UT trimmed the deficit in half during the third stanza, when it smacked three hits off Wildcat junior Lauren Schwendimann. Senior Nicole Borg poked a single to straight-away center field and sophomore Leigh Ann Ellis bashed a double to the gap in right center to put the Orange in prime position with none out. After pop outs by junior Blaine Teasley and sophomore Ellisha Humphrey, senior Maria Torres jumped on a 1-0 offering from Schwendimann to score Ellis with an RBI single. With runners on the corners for Tennessee and two down, senior Adrianna Wilson was retired on an infield fly.
Following a shaky first inning, Humphrey would control the 'Cats until dodging a major threat in the fifth. After Leto ripped a one-out double to the wall, the Knoxville native set down Jancic swinging for her sixth strikeout of the game and then had rookie Erin Mobley tap a grounder to Teasley for the last out of the inning.
The Lady Vols staged a two-out rally in the fifth to tie the affair at two runs apiece. Teasley was hit by a pitch from Schwendimann and Ellisha Humphrey legged out an infield hit to set the table for Torres. UT's designated player skied a double over the left fielder's head for a double to drive in Teasley. The momentum was snuffed out soon after though, as the NU hurler won a duel with Wilson with a strikeout.
Tennessee squandered a chance to seize the lead in the bottom of the sixth, when it had the bases loaded and one out. Senior Nicole Murray delivered a single up the middle and then scampered down to second on a wild pitch by Schwendimann. Following a walk on four pitches to junior Carissa Roustan, freshman pinch hitter Amber Rhinehart came through with a single to the edge on the right field grass to fill the sacks. When it appeared that UT was moments away from gaining the upper hand, NU's pitcher induced a pop out by Ellis before striking out Teasley.
Schwendimann gave up nine hits and struck out seven in raising her season record to 2-0, while Humphrey fell to 0-2 after scattering 10 hits and registering seven K's.