Softball: No. 12 Northwestern advances to super regional, completes undefeated home season


Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern softball team and fans celebrate after freshman infielder Kansas Robinson’s home run. This was one of her three blasts of the weekend.

Rachel Schlueter, Reporter

No. 12 Northwestern (41-11, 20-3 Big Ten) went 3-0 in its regional round, punching a ticket to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the next round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats finished their season undefeated in 14 games at Sharon J. Drysdale Field for the first time under coach Kate Drohan.

“I think we’re a little emotional because it’s our last game at (home),” graduate center fielder Skyler Shellmyer said. “It’s a very special place for us, and the fact that we were undefeated here is really awesome.”

NU kicked off its tournament run with a 2-0 pitcher’s-duel victory over Eastern Illinois (34-21, 16-6 Ohio Valley) on Friday.

Graduate pitcher Danielle Williams started in the circle for the Cats. She pitched a complete game, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out 10 batters.

NU opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when junior third baseman Hannah Cady singled to left center, handing the Cats a 1-0 lead.

Two innings later, freshman designated player Kansas Robinson homered to center field. Robinson tallied six home runs in the regular season, and the slugger built on her momentum in the postseason.

While NU’s offense didn’t fly out the gates Friday, the Cats started hot Saturday against Kentucky (31-22-1, 10-14 SEC). NU had won the teams’ last battle 9-3 on Feb. 25.

Kentucky put up three runs in the first inning, but graduate catcher Jordyn Rudd ignited the Cats’ offense with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first to bring the score to 3-2. In the top of the second, Kentucky catcher Kayla Kowalik struck a three-run home run to give her team a 6-2 lead.

But NU punched back in the bottom of the third. Robinson maintained momentum from Friday, sending a solo shot over the wall. Graduate first baseman Nikki Cuchran’s sacrifice fly and senior left fielder Angela Zedak’s RBI single brought the score to 6-5.

Graduate shortstop Maeve Nelson gave the Cats a 7-6 lead on a two-run bomb, before Robinson sent a three-run blast over the wall to stretch the advantage to four.

By the end of the Saturday shootout, NU produced just enough magic to capture a 10-8 win.

Heading into Sunday, NU was just one win away from the super regional round. But a fiery underdog in Miami (Ohio) (40-17-1, 24-5 Mid-American) stood in the way.

With junior pitcher Lauren Boyd starting in the circle, Miami scored first off a solo home run. The Redhawks added to their lead on a walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third.

NU’s bats then came alive in the top of the fourth. Cady singled to the right side and Cuchran came behind with a two-run blast, tying the score at 2-2.

Williams entered the contest in the bottom of the fourth, after Boyd tied her career high of nine strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched.

With the score tied in the top of the fifth inning, Rudd singled to right, bringing Shellmyer home for a 3-2 NU lead. However, Miami first baseman Holly Blaska retook the lead on a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth.

During freshman right fielder Kelsey Nader’s sixth-inning groundout, Zedak dashed from second to home, tying the score 4-4.

“Angela Zedak is not the fastest player on our team, but she has the fastest second-to-home time,” Drohan said. “She takes great pride in that specific baserunning move.”

With the game still tied in the top of the seventh, Shellmyer led off with a single up the middle.

Robinson came up next, bunting Shellmyer into scoring position. Rudd then sent a double to the center field wall, scoring Shellmyer and giving the Cats a 5-4 advantage.

Deep in the bottom of the seventh and with no outs, the Redhawks had the bases loaded. But Williams, the Cats’ ace, struck out two and forced a ground out to clinch a victory.

Even with Williams’ and Rudd’s heroics, Drohan said each player on the team contributes to its success.

“A lot of people talk about our fifth-years, and a lot of people talk about our freshmen,” Drohan said. “There is a sophomore, junior, senior class, who are the glue of our program.”

NU will play No. 5 Alabama (43-19, 14-10 SEC) next in the Tuscaloosa super regional on May 26. The Crimson Tide advanced to their regional after beating Middle Tennessee in a winner-take-all game Sunday.

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Twitter: @rschlueter26

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