The Daily Northwestern

Softball: Five Wildcats receive All-Big Ten Honors ahead of Big Ten Tournament

Brooke Marquez takes a swing. The senior right fielder will play in her final Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

Brooke Marquez takes a swing. The senior right fielder will play in her final Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Brooke Marquez takes a swing. The senior right fielder will play in her final Big Ten Tournament this weekend.

Andrew Golden, Reporter

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Northwestern will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the the fourth seed with a first-round bye, its third first-round bye in four years.

The Wildcats’ (34-16, 14-8 Big Ten) success this season can be attributed to their key players, including five who received All-Big Ten honors.

Freshman second baseman Rachel Lewis and junior left fielder Morgan Nelson were named All-Big Ten first team, while senior center fielder Sabrina Rabin was given All-Big Ten second team honors.

Junior first baseman Lily Novak made the All-Big Ten Defensive team, while Lewis and freshman pitcher Kenna Wilkey were chosen for the All-Big Ten Freshman team.

Lewis, who led the Big Ten with 59 RBIs, and Nelson, who was second on the team behind Lewis in home runs and RBIs, led the Cats offensively all season, combining to hit 30 of NU’s 46 home runs.

The Cats will now look ahead to their second-round matchup Friday against the winner of the matchup between 5th-seeded Ohio State (34-13, 14-8) and 12th-seeded Iowa (20-31, 6-16), two teams that NU beat in its season series.

The Cats won the two series in different ways. Against the Buckeyes, the Cats’ bats led the way as they scored 24 runs in their two games. However, when they played the Hawkeyes two weeks ago, NU’s pitching gave the Hawkeyes fits as the Cats gave up only 2 runs per game.

Senior right fielder Brooke Marquez said the previous series gave NU confidence and will make the team more motivated for Friday’s matchup.

“Our matchups previously in-conference were really good,” Marquez said. “(With) both teams, we have a big advantage and we have a big target on our back, so it’s going to give us more of a push to come out ready to fight and win.”

The Cats will travel back to Madison, Wisconsin, for the second straight week after losing their final regular season series to Wisconsin last weekend.

Marquez said playing on Wisconsin’s field last weekend was very beneficial to give NU familiarity with the field.

“It gave us a feel of how the field plays … and how big the field is,” Marquez said. “Adjusting with our infield and outfield and knowing how far we’re at and how the wind plays on the field, it’s definitely a big advantage in the back pocket.”

NU’s identity all season has consisted of being aggressive with their speed in all aspects of the game.

For the Cats to win the whole tournament, coach Kate Drohan said the key is sticking to the basics and taking it one game at a time.

“The first game of any tournament is always the toughest,” Drohan said. “Our message has been to stay loose, to play in the moment and to start fast. Our speed, physicality and aggressiveness is who we are, and I think we need to focus on that right at the start of game.”

Drohan stressed how much the team has enjoyed preparing for games all season through prep work and film review and said they will continue to do that this week.

She said if the Cats simplify the game and stick to what they have been doing all season, they can win the tournament.

“Honestly, I think it’s about our mentality at this point,” Drohan said. “Each of the teams in the tournament are good, quality teams. It’s going to be about our mentality and playing pitch-to-pitch, understanding the momentum of the game, and slowing the game down when we need to slow it down.”

Twitter: @andrewcgolden