Softball MVP: Danielle Williams
By Max Rogal
Northwestern Softball was one of the most exciting teams to watch this past year. The season was filled with unforgettable comebacks, individual achievements, and the best final result in over a decade. There are at least two or three players that one could argue are deserving of the title of team MVP, but none more than Danielle Williams.
Williams started her season hot in non-conference play with 5 innings of shutout ball vs. UConn, followed by a complete game, 12 strikeout performance vs. Liberty. The impressive performances only continued for the veteran pitcher, including her eight strong innings in a huge win vs. then No. 3 UCLA. In a much larger, 14-game win stretch for the Wildcats, Williams completed nine games and hit the double-digit strikeout mark six times. She also notched her second career no-hitter against a super-regional-bound Stanford team.
Not satisfied, Williams followed up the no-hitter with an even more dominant performance, striking out 17 and only allowing one hit in a complete-game win vs. Michigan State. Williams would go on to win 14 of her 16 starts in conference play, delivering seven saves to help lead the ‘Cats to their first regular-season conference championship since 2008. Williams also added unanimous Big Ten pitcher of the year to her resume, becoming the first Wildcat to win the award since Lauren Delaney in 2008.
As good as she was in the regular season, Williams brought her A-game in the postseason. She had two solid starts in the Big Ten tournament against Wisconsin and Michigan, both complete games, before the ‘Cats fell to Michigan in the semifinals. With that loss, Northwestern entered the NCAA tournament with even more to prove. Williams got three wins and sat for only one inning in the Evanston Regional, but it was the super regional vs. Arizona State where she demonstrated exactly what she meant to this team. Williams was not perfect, giving up 13 earned runs across three games (for comparison her 13th earned run of the regular season came in her 23rd appearance), and digging the ‘Cats a multiple-run hole in every game. Despite that, she was never fazed by her mistakes. Williams fought to keep her team within striking distance, allowing the ‘Cats to come roaring back while she stayed in the circle for an absurd 23.1 innings, including a career-high 11 in game 1 and a complete game to secure the super-regional in game 3.
Overall on the season, Williams finished with an ERA of 2.09 in 251 innings, winning 31 games and striking out 333 hitters, good for third in the country. She provided Northwestern fans with unforgettable performances and led this group of ‘Cats to new heights, but she’s not done yet. Williams will be returning, along with every other senior starter, for a fifth and final year of eligibility. Stay tuned, ‘Cats fans, the best may be yet to come.