Northwestern wins Evanston Regional
By Logan Schiciano
Beyond the right field fence at a sold-out Sharon J. Drysdale Field, a row of Northwestern softball fans sat on the ground to watch the Wildcats take on the McNeese Cowgirls in the Evanston Regional Final Sunday. By game’s end, those fans were up on their feet, applauding Northwestern’s 10-2 victory and its first trip to a NCAA super regional since 2019.
“It’s awesome – and I’m feeling a little emotional about it – because our team deserves it,” Head Coach Kate Drohan said of the crowd support. “Our team has worked really hard and they’re fun to watch and I’m so, so excited about the way our community has supported this group of women.”
Northwestern battled McNeese in the final after beating the Cowgirls a day earlier in the double elimination format.
On Sunday, the ‘Cats got on the board first by way of a Maeve Nelson RBI single to center in the first inning. Danielle Williams was her usual self in the circle, pitching three scoreless frames to open the ballgame.
Northwestern added four in the third but McNeese loaded the bases in the top of the fourth and Toni Perrin cashed in with an RBI knock of her own.
Still ahead 5-1, the Wildcat bats responded in the bottom of the inning with a bang. Rachel Lewis cracked a three-run homer – her first career postseason home run – and then Angela Zedak launched a two-run shot onto the roof of Welsh Ryan Arena to put Northwestern up 10-1.
Though McNeese threatened again in the top of the fifth, reloading the bases with no outs, Williams surrendered just one run. After striking out Adriana Ramirez and getting Gracie Devall to foul-out, Williams induced a slow ground ball to Nikki Cuchran, who stepped on first base to record the final out of the game.
Northwestern’s offense run-ruled McNeese for the second straight game, scoring a total of 36 runs in their three games over the weekend. Danielle Williams was also dominant – pitching all but one inning of the regional tournament for the ‘Cats, recording 17 strikeouts and allowing just seven earned runs.
“She’s amazing to play behind,” Zedak said. “She starts in the circle and radiates her confidence and her competitiveness to everyone around her.”
Rachel Lewis said the key to the Wildcats’ success in the regional was staying present and engaged, regardless of the score or the opponent.
“We were relentless,” Lewis said. “We were just focused on that first step, doing what we could with the ball. Everyone stepped up and it was an awesome weekend.”
Northwestern will play a three-game series against No. 9-seed Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona next weekend. The winner will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
“This is an incredible moment for our program,” Drohan said. “This team feels very, very hungry and it’s an honor to coach them.”