By Ari Levin
Just a first year, Skyler Shellmyer is already an emotional team leader for Northwestern softball.
“Lightning in a bottle at all times,” is how assistant coach Caryl Drohan described the energetic center fielder and leader of dugout cheers.
Shellmyer was ranked as the No. 25 recruit nationally, according to her Northwestern bio, based on her combination of power and speed. The high school track star has seven stolen bases this season and covers a wide range in the outfield. But the power, evident in practices, hasn’t led to a home run. And struggles at the plate have caused Shellmyer to slide from batting leadoff opening day to now batting ninth.
Still, she’s started every game this season for Northwestern, as have three other first years not counting star pitcher Danielle Williams. That youthful leadership led Northwestern to the top spot in the Big Ten, a top-20 national ranking, and a 13-game win streak headed into an Easter Sunday matchup with Purdue.
When Shellmyer came to the plate for the second time that day, Northwestern trailed but was gaining momentum. Down 2-0 headed into the fourth, Williams brought in Jordyn Rudd with a base hit and error. Mac Dunlap pinch ran on second for the pitcher, the tying run.
With no signal, Shellmyer squared to bunt. “It was a perfect bunt, oh my gosh,” said Dunlap.
Purdue’s third baseman picks up the slow roller and throws it away. The ball rolls deep into foul territory. Dunlap scores easily, tying the game. Shellmyer takes a hard turn around second.
“I look up at Kate [Drohan] and she’s waving me [home],” Shellmyer said. “Okay, I guess we’re going for this,” she thinks. Rounding third, Shellmyer peeks and spots the ball still outside the infield. “Then, I knew I was going to be safe no matter what,” she said.
Shellmyer slides in easily and Northwestern takes the lead. And then, the reaction.
The first year quickly pops out of her slide and stomps her right foot. “LET’S GO!” she shouts, stomping her feet again. Rachel Lewis, who bats next, gives a shove, which leads right into a right arm chop and another stomp. Water flies in from somewhere. Shellmyer slams her helmet to the ground – whoops, maybe a little too far. Then another double arm chop and stomp with another “LET’S GO!”
“I don’t know why, but [my helmet] just came off. Threw it on the ground,” Shellmyer recalled, as Dunlap laughed through the whole story.
How often would a play spark that reaction from the outfielder?
“All the time,” Dunlap said.
“Maybe not that extreme,” Shellmyer countered. “But … I get fired up for the littlest things. Yeah, it’s fun.”
Northwestern now has a 1-run lead. With Williams pitching, that’s usually enough.
The winning streak ultimately reached 20 before Northwestern finally lost on Saturday to Minnesota. The Wildcats finished the regular season 42-9, 21-2 in the conference and head in to next weekend’s Big Ten Tournament as the No. 2 seed.