Throughout the week, we'll be providing updates on some of Northwestern's spring non-revenue (and non-lacrosse) sports. Yesterday, we looked at both men's and women's tennis. Today, we continue with softball.
I firmly believe that if there’s a non-revenue sport that provides the best atmosphere, it’s softball. Think of it like baseball but on fast-forward. The field is smaller (it’s 60 feet to first base), the game is shorter (7 innings), and, as an added bonus, the crowds at Sharon J. Drysdale Field are actually pretty good.
Beyond just the atmosphere, the team is solid. Northwestern’s tradition of scheduling a brutal non-conference slate (they’ve played teams ranked 2nd, 12th, 13th, and two teams ranked 14th) was largely to blame for NU’s 3-9 start, but since then, Northwestern has rattled off 17 wins in 19 tries to get its record to 20-11. The Wildcats are also undefeated in conference play at 8-0 thanks to sweeps of Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue.
Northwestern lost some key seniors last year but the Wildcats seem to have adjusted pretty well. Marissa Bast, Mari Majam, Paige Tonz, and Emily Allard are gone, all of whom were key contributors last year. But Allard’s spot at the top of the order has been ably filled by speedy freshman Sabrina Rabin, who’s hitting .385 and has 15 stolen bases. Paige Tonz is no longer behind the plate, but her freshman replacement Sammy Nettling is hitting .375, has an on base percentage of .459, and has 4 home runs on the year. Krista Williams, who had just 5 at bats all of last year, has seen a spike in playing time and has delivered, hitting .346 on the year.
But perhaps the most important development has been the two Andreas: Filler and DiPrima. Last year, Andrea DiPrima hit .369 and Andrea Filler hit .333. This year, Filler is hitting .409 and has a slugging percentage of .785 while DiPrima’s slash line of .441/.555/.785 is nothing short of outstanding. Northwestern is an offense-first team, and with Andrea and Andrea carrying the load, the Wildcats are in awfully good hands.
Northwestern’s pitching was going to be the big question going into the year. Even with last year’s freshman sensation Nicole Bond shut down due to injury, Northwestern still had two returning strikeout artists in Amy Letourneau and Kristen Wood. But while both pitchers have overpowering stuff at times, they are not without their flaws.
Letourneau missed all of last year with an "upper body injury" (yes, NU injury descriptions apply to softball too), and Kristen Wood at times struggled with control, as she walked 133 hitters in 2014. Letourneau doesn’t look like she’s quite recovered her pre-injury form, as her ERA is above 4.50 and her WHIP is 1.85. Wood, meanwhile, has been striking out everything in sight recently. Last week, Wood earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors thanks to notching 27 strikeouts in 15 innings in NU’s three-game sweep of Purdue.
Northwestern softball, quietly, is one of the more consistent programs at the school. The Wildcats’ recent hot steak has them on track for another NCAA Tournament bid. With a big weekend series against 15th-ranked Minnesota coming up, Northwestern has an opportunity to prove its mettle against one of the best teams in the conference.