Softball: Rachel Lewis’ record-breaking home run hitting leads Northwestern in series win over Purdue


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Rachel Lewis looks to throw out a runner. Lewis hit a program-record 58th career home run Friday against Purdue.

Gabriela Carroll, Sports Editor


Rachel Lewis set the all-time Northwestern home run record with her 58th home run of the year Friday during the first matchup of a three-game series against Purdue, kicking off an offensive explosion for the Wildcats, who swept the series with three run-rule victories.

The graduate outfielder’s first home run of the game came late in the second inning, after she’d already gotten on base twice and scored two runs. But Lewis had yet to get a hit until her first home run of the game at the end of the second inning, a three-run blast that put the Cats up 12-0.

With that swing of the bat, Lewis’ tied Tammy Williams (SESP ’09), the previous program home run record holder. Her record-breaking second home run of the game came in the fourth inning. With Williams cheering her on behind the plate, Lewis sent the solo blast out of the park.

“(Williams has) been there since day one since I’ve gotten here,” Lewis said. “I’ve known her all these years and always had a huge amount of respect for her. She’s the greatest of all time here. It was just awesome to have her here in my corner.”

Lewis wasn’t the only player who shined offensively against the Boilermakers in the series. Seven NU players recorded an RBI in the series, with six of those players recording multiple.

Senior shortstop Maeve Nelson tied the program record with eight runs batted in Sunday’s 10-2 win against Purdue, with one RBI single, a three-run homer and a grand slam. After the Boilermakers intentionally walked Lewis in the first inning, Nelson said she and the team were “fired up” and ready to deliver the big hits since Lewis could not.

“When one person can’t do it, you just pass the baton to the next person,” Nelson said. “It’s cool to hit those home runs. But on our team, if (Lewis) is not going to do it, I’m going to do it. If I’m not going to do it, (Angela Zeda is) going to do it. Someone always steps up.”

The Cats’ high offensive output allowed all three games to end in the fifth inning due to the mercy rule, but NU’s pitchers also put in strong performances. Senior pitcher Danielle Williams pitched a shutout in four innings in Friday’s game, and allowed just four hits and two earned runs in her five innings on Sunday. Senior pitcher Lauren Dvorak and sophomore pitcher Lauren Boyd combined to pitch five innings on Saturday, allowing just one run.

NU showed off the depth Lewis said she thinks makes the team a threat to win the College World Series.

“There’s no weak spots in our lineup or on our team,” Lewis said.

But Lewis was still the star of the show this weekend, cementing her place in NU softball history. Coach Kate Drohan pointed to Lewis’ poise and leadership while chasing the record as a big reason for the team’s success this year.

“As Rachel was chasing the record, she was really calm about it,” Drohan said. “She was very poised. It never got too big for her. So now my challenge to her is just to make it untouchable. How high can this record be?”

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