Softball: Northwestern defeats Indiana to claim first Big Ten title since 2008


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Northwestern gears up for its heavily slated upcoming season with its eyes set on another NCAA tournament berth.

Kunjal Bastola, Reporter

In walk-off fashion, No. 18 Northwestern secured its first conference title since 2008 against Iowa, marking the first time in program history the team won the regular season and conference titles in the same season.

The Wildcats (38-11, 20-3 Big Ten) are the first Big Ten team since Michigan in 2019 to accomplish this feat.

After defeating Iowa 3-1 on Thursday, the Cats steamrolled the reigning conference champs in Nebraska during their semifinal matchup Friday. Thanks to a four-hit shutout from graduate student left-handed pitcher Danielle Williams, the Cats defeated the Cornhuskers in a 8-0 run rule.

With the win, the Cats are headed to the Big Ten conference finals against Indiana on Saturday for the first time since 2018. With momentum strong and team spirit high, the Cats sat in a prime position to snag the conference title.

And they delivered.

As expected, Williams performed stellarly once again, allowing only a single unearned run during the entire game. After being named a First Team All-Big Ten honoree for the fourth year straight, Williams also took home Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament. She gave up zero earned runs over a total of 14 innings.

Williams’ proficient play in the circle helped save NU, as the Cats didn’t deliver at the plate until the seventh inning, when the team was trailing 1-0. Entering the final half inning, the Cats’ only hit of the contest had come from freshman infielder Kansas Robinson’s double in the first inning.

Graduate student catcher Jordyn Rudd led the seventh inning surge with a base hit, and sophomore infielder Lauren Sciborski pinch ran for her. Next up, junior infielder Hannah Cady hit another single and legged it out to second, moving runners to second and third with zero outs. From there, graduate student infielder Nikki Cuchran’s walk combined with a wild pitch to score Sciborski, tying the game at one run a piece.

Senior utility Angela Zedak loaded the bases next to put the Cats in a perfect position, with graduate student infielder Maeve Nelson following at bat.

Adding to a superb Big Ten Career, Nelson singled to right-center field to score Cady and bring the score to 2-1.

The team raced out to Nelson at second base and after, raised the newly acquired hardware, celebrating the end to the program’s 17-year drought of Big Ten Championships.

The Cats are now headed to the NCAA Regionals next weekend, where they face a double elimination style tournament. If NU is victorious, the team will head to NCAA Super Regionals the following weekend, where they would face 16 regional winners in a best-of-three style competition.

And if the Cats continue to dominate there, they could become one of the eight teams heading to the Women’s College World Series in June.

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Twitter: @kunjal_bastola

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