Season Recap: Softball
By Sriman Narayanan
Overall Record: 30-17
Home Record: 9-7
Away Record: 9-8
Best BA (50+ ABs): Skyler Shellmyer (.360)
Most RBIs: Morgan Newport (39)
Best ERA: Danielle Williams (2.21)
Northwestern softball proved themselves to be one of the school’s most exciting teams to watch this last season.
After all, 2020 gave us some vintage moments we’ll be turning back to for years to come.
There was the nine-game win streak they burst into the season with, holding sole control of the Big Ten until the third week of the season had begun.
There were the 30 consecutive scoreless innings Danielle Williams pitched across those games.
There were Sydney Supple’s heroics against Wisconsin March 26-28, where the pitcher-turned-power-hitter drove in nine runs across four games, including an electric walk-off two-run double on that weekend’s Friday. She didn’t stop there, piling on not only her first but first two career home runs in the same weekend, giving her a stat line for the ages.
There was, of course, the legend of Morgan Newport, the graduate student returning to the J for one last opportunity to represent her Wildcats. Newport’s legacy would have been sound enough in just what it took her to get to that point– she had been one of the loudest voices among the student-athlete community pleading that the Class of 2020 receives an added year of eligibility in light of the pandemic. Getting back into the circle could be seen as an accomplishment in and of itself.
But Newport took it upon herself to go above and beyond, and the captain made Northwestern softball the must-see team it became. Leading the squad in home runs with ten, Newport found success behind the circle as well, at times dominating opposing teams pitching, then turning around and blasting balls into the outfield, as she did against Maryland on April 3, where she tossed six shutout innings alongside a 2-for-4 performance. She boasted not one, but two, walk-off home runs, the first against Iowa on April 16, and the second barely two weeks later against Illinois, on May 1.
The ‘Cats put together an impressive season, but it was not without its lowlights. The four-game skid in early April, a weekend of consecutive losses to Minnesota, was perhaps the darkest of those moments. The 1-3 Michigan series also comes to mind.
Northwestern struggled to be cohesive at times, hitting lights out but unable to get it done on the defensive end. Though field play was exceptional and errors were few and far between, pitching lacked depth at times, and teams were able to catch up to their offense’s outbursts sooner than the ‘Cats would have liked.
Kate Drohan’s squad also couldn’t manage consistent wins against the conference’s best teams; Michigan and Minnesota found little to no resistance in their paths to victory. Despite earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, NU fell to Kentucky in double elimination, dropping game one, fighting back against Miami of Ohio for a 7-1 victory in game two, but losing their rematch with UK later that day, a wire-to-wire thriller.
MVP: Morgan Newport
For a team whose biggest concern was always consistency, Newport was a beacon of hope for Kate Drohan. Need someone to pitch? Newport. Need a big hit? No worries, Newport’s due in two batters. Going against a tough pitcher? Move Newport up in the lineup. Tough batter? Ump? We’re calling in relief. Morgan Newport, if you’ve heard of her.
Newport’s value will be sorely missed, not only in her ability as a player but in the leadership she brings to the squad. One of the longest-tenured Wildcats, younger players will certainly need to fill in her massive shoes, ones that carried an outstanding OPS of .982 and a 2.44 ERA.
Key Contributors: Rachel Lewis & Maeve Nelson
Few batters in the Big Ten are as feared as Rachel Lewis and for good reason. The unanimous All-Big Ten first-team selection has been known to blast balls into oblivion throughout her career at NU, and though 2021 may have been a quieter year– quiet, in Lewis’s case, being an incredible seven home runs– she certainly made up for it on the defensive end, acting as a reliable anchor from the second base position that was cause for plenty of quick turns and scoops into double plays. Of course, some of those impeccable plays wouldn’t have been possible without the phenomenal player on third base.
Mac Dunlap very well could have been the most exciting player to watch on the ‘Cats this past season, which is an odd thing to say, considering her plate performance wasn’t rivaling some of the masterful work done by her teammates. But her plays made at third base remain to be some of the best done from the position, as game after game, Dunlap would rise into the air and make incredible grabs, turning tough plays into easy outs to her first baseman, Nikki Cuchran. Dunlap’s bouncy energy always kept the Wildcat infield lively, and with her graduation this last spring, her spot will certainly be one difficult to fill.