Softball: Wildcats prepare to play under home lights in Big Ten Tournament

Anna+Edwards+receives+coaching+on+the+basepaths.+The+junior+shortstop+has+started+every+game+this+season+and+is+fourth+on+the+team+in+RBI.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Anna Edwards receives coaching on the basepaths. The junior shortstop has started every game this season and is fourth on the team in RBI.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Northwestern’s opening Big Ten Tournament game on Thursday will be special for many reasons.

The game will be held on the Wildcats’ home turf, Sharon J. Drysdale Field. The Cats’ opener will serve as the first night game to ever be held on the diamond.

“Our whole team is really excited,” sophomore Brianna LeBeau said. “It brings a new level of energy to the game.”

The Cats have high expectations for the game’s atmosphere and their home fans and hope that the home field advantage energizes them.

“I’m picturing it being really electric,” senior Marisa Bast said. “It’s going to be a part of ‘the J’s’ history and I’m excited to be part of it.”

The Cats are practicing under the lights Wednesday order to prepare for the late start, but they don’t see the change impacting the way they play.

“We’re going to treat it like any other game,” Bast said.

NU, the No. 5 seed, faces off against 12th-seeded Michigan State. The Cats hosted the Spartans last weekend, sweeping the three series.

But the Cats will be careful to not overlook the opponent.

“None of the runs (scored last weekend) count on Thursday,” coach Kate Drohan said. “I like the fact that we’re prepared and familiar with them, but we just need to focus on playing Northwestern softball and taking one pitch at a time.”

Taking the season game by game has been the motto for the Cats all year long, and it will be no different in the postseason, especially with NCAA tournament selection on the horizon.

“It’s hard not to think that way,” Drohan said when asked about having something to prove to the tournament selection committee. “We talked internally to the team, and every time you think about what are our chances are, we are on the bubble. You need to focus on what you can control, how you can prepare for practice, prepare for the game. It takes a lot of discipline.”

Though the Cats’ focus will not be on the NCAA Tournament over the next few days, they do feel like they have a chance make the cut.

“We’ve shown we deserve it,” LeBeau said.

Instead, NU will focus on the 11 teams coming to play at their field this weekend, with the ultimate goal of taking home a conference title.

“It’s exciting to bring the Big Ten together on our home turf,” Bast said.

Bast also reflected on the special meaning of the tournament for her and her fellow seniors and the opportunity to play at home one last time.

The Cats have a confidence in their abilities and are looking to the special aspects of the game and tournament to motivate them and make the tournament a fun and memorable experience.

“It’s easy to bring energy as a team because we have great chemistry,” LeBeau said.

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