Softball: Northwestern returning veteran firepower, eyes another trip to Oklahoma City in 2023


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Graduate student catcher Jordyn Rudd goes to bat. Rudd, the 2022 National Defensive Player of the Year, will anchor the Wildcats’ defense again in 2023.

Charlotte Varnes, Managing Editor

Northwestern softball just finished one of its most successful seasons in recent memory: a Big Ten regular season title, a trip to the Women’s College World Series and a final ranking of No. 6 nationally.

The Wildcats are poised to claw their way back to Oklahoma City in 2023. NU retains nearly all of its star power from its 2022 campaign with the exception of outfielder Rachel Lewis, the 2022 Big Ten Player of the Year.

With five returning graduate students — outfielder Skyler Shellmeyer, first baseman Nikki Cuchran, catcher Jordyn Rudd, pitcher Danielle Williams and shortstop Maeve Nelson — the Cats will have no shortage of veteran leadership in 2023. 

On the mound, Williams played a central role in booking NU’s ticket to Oklahoma City. She started all three games of the Tempe Super Regional, notching 19 strikeouts over 23.1 innings. She will no doubt be crucial to the Cats’ defensive success this season. Returning pitchers senior Sydney Supple and junior Lauren Boyd will also anchor the rotation.

Rudd is poised for another strong season anchoring the defense as well. Rudd started all 58 games at catcher for NU in 2022 and claimed the title of Softball America National Defensive Player of the Year.

The departure of Lewis, the Cats’ leader in runs, OPS and home runs, will certainly leave a hole in the lineup. But other than Lewis, most of NU’s offensive firepower remains. Look to Rudd, Cuchran and Nelson to maintain the Cats’ momentum in 2022.

Beyond the program’s veteran leaders, a talented crew of younger players is set to make an impact, too. Sophomore infielder Grace Nieto started every game at second base, and junior infielder Hannah Cady also started each matchup at third baseman en route to All-Big Ten honors.

Coach Kate Drohan, the winningest coach in NU history, is back for her 22nd season at the helm. With her leadership and the returning talent, there’s no doubt the Cats will be competing for a spot in Oklahoma City once again. 

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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