Tigers pull away from No. Lehigh
Northwestern's Ashley Sisco races to the plate to finish off her three-run homer. The Northern Lehigh catcher is Briana Schuck. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Emily Akelaitis found her comfort zone even before she stepped in the circle on Tuesday.
After Northwestern leadoff hitter Avery George scored the game's first run in the top of the first inning, the Tigers' right-handed hurler gained a lot of confidence before throwing her first pitch.
Given the lead, Akelaitis quickly gained control of the game. Her teammates continued to tack on runs, though, making her job a bit easier, and the Tigers went on to secure a 12-1 Colonial League victory over rival Northern Lehigh.
"When you're getting ready to go out there and pitch ... it helps you out when your offense backs you up with a quick lead," Akelaitis said. "That boosts your confidence level, and it also helps keeps the momentum going."
Unfortunately for the league-leading Bulldogs, Akelaitis and her defense made it quite a challenge for them to get on the scoreboard.
Akelaitis only needed 94 pitches to keep Northern Lehigh in check, finishing with a three-hitter.
"They (Northern Lehigh) were a hot team coming in," Northwestern coach Josh Zimmerman said. "We knew we had to keep the pressure on. Once we got that one run in the first inning ... she knows it's a whole lot easier to pitch with a lead. We just kept adding on there, and the girls showed up to play today."
The Tigers (5-3; 5-3) kept boosting Akelaitis's confidence by scoring more runs and playing solid defense.
Northwestern's Ashley Sisco belted a three-run home run to deep left field in the third inning to extend the lead to 4-0.
George added another run in the fourth with an RBI single.
While the Tigers got another run in the fifth on an Akelaitis sacrifice fly, they pretty much took the Bulldogs out of the game with a six-run seventh inning.
Akelaitis then finished things off, recording two of her six strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh.
"To their credit, they're truly never out of a game," Zimmerman said. "That's why we kind of kept the pressure on there and made sure we didn't leave any doubt about this one. But I think that top of the seventh we definitely put an exclamation point on the game and we showed we can contend with anybody in this league."
After two Bulldog miscues in the seventh, Akelaitis, Sisco and Jess Badman hit back-to-back-to-back singles. Pinch-hitter McKayla Wildrick joined the Tigers' offensive barrage with a two-run double, and Bree Bliss capped the scoring with a fielder's choice RBI.
Northern Lehigh (7-2; 6-2) came into the contest averaging 6.4 runs per game but could never get the bats going against Akelaitis.
"My kids didn't hit," Bulldog head coach Bob Hicks said. "They're a much better hitting team than this, or we wouldn't be where we are. We had that kind of day. You don't win games with three hits. You just don't.
"They definitely came to play today. Obviously we didn't. We will get back to where we need to be."
CAUGHT OFF-GUARD … With Northern Lehigh threatening to tie the game in the bottom of the first, the Northwestern defense stepped up. Akelaitis caught a line drive off the bat of Shyanna Williams and doubled off a Bulldog runner at first base.
EYE OF THE TIGER … Eight Tigers collected hits. Sisco led the way with a single, home run, two runs scored, and four RBIs. Brooke Wehr (two singles, three runs) and Akelaitis (two singles, three RBIs) also finished with multiple hits.
PREVENTED A HITLESS DAY … Williams paced the Bulldogs with an RBI single, while Kaitlin Hoffman and Lauren Hoffman added the other hits. Leadoff hitter Tiff Yesik scored the Bulldogs' lone run in the sixth inning.
Northwestern 103 110 6 - 12 10 1
Northern Lehigh 000 001 0 - 1 3 3
E. Akelaitis and Wehr; Ziegler, K. Hoffman (5) and Schuck. W - E. Akelaitis. L - Ziegler. HR: NW - Sisco (3rd, two on).