Softball: No. 16 Wildcats prepare to host first NCAA Regional since 2008


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Rachel Lewis hits the ball. The second baseman had seven hits this weekend to help the Wildcats start 6-0 for the first time in program history.

Sophia Scanlan, Reporter


For the first time since 2008, postseason softball is coming to Evanston.

Northwestern will welcome Detroit Mercy, Southern Illinois and Louisville to the Sharon J. Drysdale Field this weekend to compete in an NCAA Regional that will determine who advances in the national tournament.

Provided rain doesn’t interfere, the Cardinals (33-21, 12-12 ACC) and Salukis (33-13, 17-6 Missouri Valley) will face off Friday at noon, and the No. 16 Wildcats (43-10, 21-2 Big Ten) will battle the Titans (31-26, 16-8 Horizon) 30 minutes after that game finishes. With the double-elimination format, the two winners and two losers from Friday will play each other on Saturday, and a final round will take place on Sunday.

The winner of the regional will go on to play the winner of the Norman, Oklahoma regional, which includes Oklahoma, UMBC, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

“It’s a great opportunity, but you’ve got to play tough,” coach Kate Drohan said. “The three teams coming here are very athletic. They’re playing great softball right now, so I think the key to this tournament will be taking it one game at a time.”

Detroit Mercy — the Horizon League champion — comes to Evanston for its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance armed with solid pitching in senior Ashley Mauser, who earned her conference’s pitcher of the year award, and junior Liz Murphy, who has a 2.16 ERA. Friday will mark the first time the Titans ever match up against the Cats.

NU has seen Louisville three times this season. Though the Cats scraped up the win against the Cardinals in each game, Louisville has a strong offense, with four starters hitting over .300 and senior Megan Hensley boasting a .655 slugging percentage.

Southern Illinois comes to the tournament after receiving an at-large bid after its second-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Entering her 13th NCAA tournament with NU, Drohan said the players have learned a lot from the past two weekends against Minnesota and Indiana that they’re looking to improve on this weekend.

“Our team has understood the importance of generating runs (and) different kinds of offensive production, so we’ve been able to dial in at practice this week and work on those adjustments,” she said. “Even though we haven’t gotten the results that we wanted, I see a lot of work being done. I think we’re definitely growing as a team.”

Drohan added that the Cats need to get “on-time” with their hitting, given the large number of pitchers they’re likely to face this weekend.

In particular, she said getting on-time with change of speed pitches would be crucial.

“At this point in the game, your swing is your swing, but it’s about putting a good swing on the right pitch,” she said.

Despite the past few weekends, sophomore second baseman Rachel Lewis said NU is ready to play hard in the regional.

“We can’t focus on the couple weekends that we’ve had. We’re a great team and we’ve got a lot going for us — awesome freshmen, awesome lineup, awesome roster,” she said. “We’re confident, and we’re ready to advance.”

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