Softball: Pauly leaves her mark on NU

Colin Becht

Nicole Pauly has left an indelible mark on Sharon J. Drysdale Field. And Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Pauly became just the second player in Northwestern history to hit a home run onto the roof of Welsh-Ryan Arena with a mammoth blast against Indiana last year.

“Hitting the ball on the roof is pretty special,” coach Kate Drohan said.

But Pauly’s mark on “The J” will remain much longer. In her four seasons at NU, in which Pauly started every game, she moved into third in school history for career homers with 53 and the top 10 in six other offensive categories.

The intensity with which Pauly plays the game extends beyond the batter’s box. Unafraid to play physical, Pauly is jokingly known as “a hockey player in a softball uniform,” Drohan said.

That impressive production has not gone unnoticed. In 2007, Pauly was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and this year she is among the 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which is based on success on and off the softball diamond.

“It would mean a lot (to win the award),” Pauly said. “In that category, there are a lot of really good athletes, so just to be in that category with them is already a success for me, so just to win it would be unbelievable.”

Pauly said she hopes she stands out from her fellow finalists due to uniquness of being a student-athlete at NU.

“Anyone coming from the Northwestern program, we’ve gone through a lot,” Pauly said. “Our school is pretty challenging and Kate and (associate head coach Carol Drohan) push us really hard here. I have a leg up in that I’m pretty well-rounded.”

Beyond her record-book accomplishments, Pauly has volunteered with Girls in the Game, a Chicago-based program that gives underprivileged girls a chance to come to NU and practice with the Wildcats.

“They get to use our equipment and they get really excited because they get to play on our field,” Pauly said. “It’s teaching them skills and also letting them have fun.”

Pauly has also tutored high school kids in Chicago Public Schools, originally as part of a community involvement class at NU, but she continued the service voluntarily.

The Palatine, Ill., native is the third NU player in the past four years to be named a finalist for the award, following in the footsteps of Garland Cooper and Tammy Williams, two players equally notorious for their power hitting. Cooper and Williams are the only two other players in school history to hit more than 50 home runs.

“It’s unbelievable (to be linked with Cooper and Williams) just because they were amazing players and coming in my freshman year, I learned a lot from Garland and Tammy,” Pauly said. “I owe a lot of my success to them because of what they taught me.”

As a senior leader, Pauly switched roles and become the older mentor. When freshman Emily Allard was converted to a shortstop, a position she had not played before college, Pauly took on the task of mentoring her.

“Every little thing she could help me with, she was right there to let me know, ‘Hey, no, field it this way,’ or, ‘Hey take a step this way,'” Allard said. “She was always in my ear and my back pocket in a good way. Whatever I needed, she was there for me.”

Pauly’s relationship with the shortstop is only one example of her skills as a leader.

“She’s definitely a leader-by-example simply because she sets such a great example, but she’s very clear when she communicates,” Drohan said. “That’s been really key, especially with some of our freshmen.”

With the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award based partially on a fan vote, Pauly finds herself behind many of her fellow finalists and will need a lot of help from the votes of coaches and media to win.

“It would be terrific (if she won), but I don’t need an award to tell me that Nicole Pauly’s terrific. She’s left everything she has with us,” Drohan said. “We’ve just been really blessed to have her in our program.”

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