Daily file photo by Andrew Golden
It’s safe to say Northwestern has big expectations for this season.
In 2019, the Wildcats had one of their most successful seasons in program history, going 21-2 in Big Ten play and 47-13 overall. The Wildcats placed second in the Big Ten conference and made the round of 16 in the College World Series before losing to No. 1 ranked Oklahoma.
But now that it’s February, NU looks to move forward and claim even better results this season with a determined 23-player roster.
This weekend, the Cats return to the diamond for their first tournament of the 2020 season. NU will head southwest to Tempe, Arizona, to compete in the Kajikawa Classic against five teams: Utah, Seattle, No 12 Tennessee, No 22 Arizona State and Portland State.
The Cats have not faced any of these teams in the past year except for the Utes, who they beat 10-0 in February 2019. Butthe Volunteers and the Sun Devils are both ranked teams and will give NU insight to where the team stands heading into the season.
Senior pitcher Morgan Newport said she will not be approaching the upcoming games against Tennessee and Arizona State any differently from the rest and is excited to play highly-ranked teams early on.
“It’s a really awesome opportunity. If we want to be the best we have to play the best and beat the best,” Newport said. “We feel like we have a target on our back this year in a really good way. Whereas last year, we kind of felt like we were sneaking up on people.”
Coach Kate Drohan, who won the 2019 Big Ten Coach of the year, said rankings don’t hold a lot of weight this early in the season. Although the matchups will be competitive, Drohan said the Cats challenged themselves more this offseason in preparation and should be ready.
Drohan said despite how exciting last year’s success was, NU has moved on and is focused on building upon where it left off last spring.
“Our attitude right now about last year is that we learned a lot, and we had some key experiences,” Drohan said. “A real strength we are looking to build on is the depth of our pitching, and we have six pitchers right now on our staff who have really worked hard and challenged themselves to add a different dimension or to build on their strengths. We’re excited about using that team within a team so to speak to use those matchups and those combinations so we can be ready when may hits.”
This year, the Cats return all but two players and add seven freshman, including freshman pitcher Sydney Supple, a top 10 recruit and three-time Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year.
With a fairly young squad, team chemistry will play an integral role in this year’s success as the freshman adjust to the pace of college ball.
“As a team we are really trying to be even more cohesive and together and as a family,” sophomore catcher Jordyn Rudd said.
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