Softball: Northwestern hopes to capitalize on strong returning presence

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Sydney Supple delivers a pitch. Supple is one of eight Wildcat starters who will return in 2022.

Nathan Ansell, Reporter


Softball


After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Northwestern softball cooled off in the second half of the 2021 season, which concluded with a 30-17 record and a first-weekend exit in the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament regional.

One reason to be optimistic for next season: the team’s veteran experience. NU is returning eight of 10 starters from its postseason opener, including graduate student and second baseman Rachel Lewis, a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection.

Three more First Team All-Big Ten honorees — catcher Jordyn Rudd, center fielder Skyler Shellmyer and pitcher Danielle Williams — are also back for their senior season. Along with Lewis, Rudd earned an All-Defensive Team nomination, and Shellmyer finished top 10 in the conference in batting average, runs and stolen bases. All three should provide a spark plug for the Cats’ offense, which led the Big Ten in runs in 2021.

Williams, meanwhile, is poised to be NU’s ace once more. As coach Kate Drohan experimented with five starters last year, the former NFCA National Freshman of the Year led the team in every major statistical pitching category. In 2021, Williams ranked third in the Big Ten in strikeouts with 191 — six of which came during a perfect game against Iowa on April 16.

NU’s offensive firepower is not limited to the top of the batting order, however. Senior shortstop Maeve Nelson and senior first baseman Nikki Cuchran saved their best performances of last season for the playoffs, and they could pick up where they left off. The Cats are also welcoming five newcomers to the roster, including freshman infielder Lauren Sciborski, the 34th-best recruit in her class, according to Extra Innings.

Opening day remains months away, but Drohan and NU have the talent they need to challenge Michigan for a Big Ten title and make a deep postseason run.

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Twitter: @NathanJAnsell

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