MSU Softball Falls to No. 11 Northwestern, 6-1

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EVANSTON, Ill. – Michigan State (26-28, 8-12) wrapped its regular season Sunday afternoon with a 6-1 loss to No. 11 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. The Spartans will begin the postseason back at Northwestern, as the Wildcats host the Big Ten Championship May 8-10. Senior hurler Lesley Noel pitched the entirety of today’s game, and finished the regular season 14-18, while NU’s Lauren Delaney picked up the win for a 31-8 overall mark.

The Wildcats finish the season 34-13 overall and 18-2 in Big Ten action, tied with Michigan for the conference’s top spot, but a coin flip at the conference office gave Northwestern the top seed.

“It’s really a heart-breaking weekend; these games were really close. We couldn’t capitalize in important situations. But we’re really looking forward to the Big Ten Tournament and whoever we end up playing.”

Bianca Mejia kicked off the action for the Spartans with a single up the middle with two outs, and Caitlin Mahoney drew a walk to put runners at first and second. But Lauren Delaney caught Gina Mondo swinging to hush MSU’s early drive.

In the bottom of the second, Tammi Williams singled with one out to give the Wildcats their first base runner, but the Spartans turned a double play on the ensuing grounder to Mondo to close out the inning, and keep the game scoreless.

With a perfectly laid-down squeeze bunt from Caitlin Mahoney, the Spartans scored first in the top of the third as Jessica LeFevre safely slid home and beat the toss from Delaney to E. Dyer. LeFevre had opened the inning with a strong single to shortstop, while Nikki Nicosia reached on a fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt. Kara Weigle moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, and Bianca Mejia followed with a walk to load the bases. After Mahoney bunted in LeFevre, the Wildcats were able to force a play at the plate for the second out, before Delaney ended the inning with a strikeout. But the damage was done, as MSU took a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, two runs for Northwestern pushed the Wildcats ahead 2-1 off of back-to-back RBI hits. With one out, Michelle Batts drew a walk off of Noel, and a deep double to left center field by Nicole Pauly drove in the run for NU. Erin Dyer came up next and singled to center to score Pauly.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 4-1 with lead-off solo homers in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings. Lone senior Darcy Sengewald took the fifth inning’s first pitch deep over the center field fence at Sharon J. Drysdale Field on Senior Day, while sophomore Nicole Pauly sent the first pitch of the sixth inning over the left-field wall. And Kelly Quinn kept the theme alive with a two-run homer across center field, increasing Northwestern’s lead to 6-1.

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