Softball: Northwestern looks to nab Big Ten Championship this weekend


Daily file photo by Mary Randolph

The Cats look to earn the title of Big Ten Champions this weekend at the Big Ten Tournament.

Kunjal Bastola, Reporter

After defeating Rutgers in last weekend’s series , No. 19 Northwestern won its second consecutive outright Big Ten regular-season championship. The Wildcats (35-11, 20-3 Big Ten) will compete in the conference tournament this weekend, looking to win its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2008.

Top-seeded NU’s first matchup will take place Thursday against Iowa. Here are some key factors to keep in mind as the Cats head to Urbana-Champaign looking to earn yet another accolade prior to a Women’s College World Series. 

  • What will NU’s pitching rotation pull off? 

Graduate student pitcher Danielle Williams, the Cats’ ace, picked up her 100th career win at Rutgers last weekend. As 2022’s unanimous Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, the southpaw continues to deal at an elite level. Williams likely plans to leave it all in the circle during her final conference tournament, but which of the Cats’ other pitchers will step up and help lead the team to victory? 

Junior pitcher Lauren Boyd may play a key role. Her arm will likely be fresh, as she only pitched one inning of two-hit ball against Rutgers. Along with Boyd, senior pitcher Sydney Supple and graduate student pitcher Cami Henry have consistently turned in stellar displays in the circle this season and must repeat their regular season efforts when the lights shine brightest. Henry shone when she tossed a complete game shutout against Notre Dame in February, and Supple has dominated on both offense and defense, scoring two runs against Penn State and allowing just one run in four innings against UCLA. 

To win this weekend, the Cats will need to maximize the talents of each and every one of their pitchers.  

  • Will the Cats’ veterans shine this weekend?

Along with Wiliams and NU’s pitching squad, many of the Cats who contributed to 2022’s dream season returned to play this year. Graduate student catcher Jordyn Rudd helped spark NU’s run to the WCWS last year, and she continues to impress this season. Rudd’s walk off grand slam against Penn State in April was just one highlight in her standout overall regular-season performance. Expect Rudd to deliver big at the conference tournament and add a couple more home runs to her name.

Graduate student infielder Maeve Nelson also plays a fundamental role for the Cats. In NU’s final game against Rutgers on Sunday, Nelson scored her 25th run of the season, propelling the Cats to a 2-0 victory and to the Big Ten regular-season championship. With years of experience with NU to boot, Nelson is sure to amaze in the upcoming series. 

  • Which new stars will shine for NU under the brightest lights? 

The Cats’ dominance this regular season paved the way for new stars to blossom at Sharon J. Drysdale Field.

Sophomore infielder Ayana Lindsey and freshman outfielder Kelsey Nader have delivered all season long, contributing key hits and runs for the Cats, especially during the 24-6 win against Penn State. Both tallied multiple hits that game, and Nader even drove in 3-runs of her own.  

Sophomore infielder Grace Nieto and freshman infielder Kansas Robinson have also made a significant impact throughout the campaign, especially against Penn State and other Big Ten rivals. Robinson is a freshman to look out for, as she had a career high seven bases against Illinois in early April and also homered, tripled, and drove in two runs in that game. Nieto also broke her own record for runs in a single game this season, with three against Nebraska. 

NU’s newest stars will be ones to watch for this weekend as all bats will be on deck for the Cats.  

  • What do the Cats’ most recent honors mean for the team’s forthcoming performance? 

Coach Kate Drohan won Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season, the Big Ten announced Wednesday, marking her fifth time winning the accolade and her third in the last four seasons. 

Williams and graduate student infielder Nikki Cuchran both received First Team All-Big Ten nods, and Rudd, junior infielder Hannah Cady and graduate student outfielder Skylar Shellmyer picked up Second Team All-Big Ten honors. 

Additionally, freshman outfielder Kelsey Nader and Robinson earned spots on the All Freshman Team, while Rudd picked up an All-Defensive Team spot. Senior outfielder Kendall Peterson collected a sportsmanship honor. 

With these recent awards under their belt, the Cats are in a great position to nab an elusive conference tournament crown this weekend in Champaign, Illinois before heading to the NCAA Tournament.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @kunjal_bastola

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