Northwestern Softball NCAA Tournament Preview
By Will Greer
Northwestern softball’s 15th trip to the NCAA tournament will begin in South Bend, Indiana this weekend, as the ‘Cats will join host Notre Dame, Kentucky and Ball State at Melissa Cook Stadium.
Northwestern (28-21) earned an at-large bid to the tournament after finishing fourth in the Big Ten. The ‘Cats will assume the underdog role in South Bend as the region’s third seed.
Offensively, NU will rely on its two All-Big Ten team members, Sabrina Rabin and Andrea Filler, in order to pull off the regional upset.
Rabin, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, finished the season ranked first in the conference with 18 steals, second in runs with 32, third in batting with a .456 average and fourth in hits with 36.
Filler, the Wildcats’ RBI leader, had 59 regular season RBI, ranking second in the Big Ten. She also ranks 14th in the nation with 1.26 RBI per game.
The ‘Cats will likely give the ball to junior Kristen Wood in Game One against Kentucky in a battle of the Wildcats. Wood leads the team in almost every pitching category, including a 4.18 ERA, 221 strikeouts and 16 wins.
Northwestern will face a Kentucky program (29-24) on Friday afternoon that has historically been a softball powerhouse. Despite finishing 12th in the nation’s strongest softball conference with a 5-19 record, Big Blue has been ranked in the top-25 all season and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The appearance will be Kentucky’s seventh-straight.
Kentucky is led by SEC All-Defensive Team member Griffin Joiner, who boasts a perfect fielding percentage at catcher. Joiner is also hitting .302 with a team-best 11 home runs and 39 RBI.
Notre Dame (40-13) faces Ball State in the second game of opening day action. The No. 21 Irish received the No. 16 seed in the tournament after posting a 17-6 ACC record and finishing third in the regular season standings in just their second official season in the conference.
Notre Dame is led by two-time All-American Emilee Koerner, who was named ACC Player of the Year on May 7. The senior co-captain has a .398 average, 10 home runs and 50 RBI.
Ball State (33-23), the Mid-American Conference tournament champion, rounds out the regional. The Cardinals are making just their third trip to the NCAA Tournament and are led by Hanne Stuedemann, who has a .394 average with nine home runs and 48 RBI.
WNUR Sports will broadcast all of Northwestern’s games at the South Bend regional. The first two games for the Wildcats will be on air and online, and all of their games following the first two will be broadcast on our Ustream page.