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Softball: Northwestern wins 4 of 5 over weekend as Rudd, Williams earn weekly Big Ten honors

Williams was the first Wildcat to be named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week in nearly four years.

Sophomore Rachel Lewis.

Northwestern’s acclaimed class of newcomers is paying dividends already.

Behind substantial contributions from freshmen Jordyn Rudd, Danielle Williams, and Nikki Cuchran, the Wildcats went 4-1 at the Titan Classic in Fullerton, Calif. over the weekend.

NU’s pitching was excellent all weekend as the Wildcats shutout their first three opponents, In the season opener against Utah State, Kenna Wilkey tossed a one-hit shutout, and NU was bolstered by an early home run from second-team All-American Rachel Lewis. The Wildcats scored five in the first and six in the third to beat the Aggies 12-0.

From there, Williams took over. The freshman, who earned both Big Ten Pitcher and Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, twirled back-to-back complete game shutouts in her first two collegiate starts. On Friday, Williams no-hit Pacific for 6.2 innings before surrendering a double. She struck out the next hitter to complete the no-hitter in a 7-0 victory.

Williams took the ball again on Saturday against Louisville, allowing only two hits with 13 strikeouts as NU shut out the Cardinals 1-0. She worked around a lead-off triple in the seventh inning to preserve the Wildcat win.

Then, on Sunday, the Pleasanton, Calif. native pitched 3.2 innings of relief against Idaho State, striking out four and allowing only one run. Oh, and she singled home the game-winning run in the seventh inning. The totals for Williams on the weekend — a 3-0 record, a 0.51 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched, 22 strikeouts, and a game-winning RBI. Not a bad start to a collegiate career.

Rudd went 2-for-3 with three RBI in her debut against Utah State, but her breakout came against Pacific, homering twice and driving in five runs. She went 7-for-15 on the weekend with 10 RBI and a 1.067 slugging percentage, earning co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Cuchran wasn’t far behind, slashing .462/.500/.615 on the weekend with four RBI.

After winning its first three matchups, Northwestern dropped a heart-breaker to Loyola Marymount. Down early, the Wildcats rallied to tie the game twice, but could only manage five hits against the Lions. LMU handed NU its first loss of the season with a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the seventh.

A slow start on Sunday meant Northwestern faced an early three-run deficit. The Wildcats came back with two runs in the fourth, before Lewis delivered her second home run of the weekend to tie the game at three. The Bengals scored a run off Williams in the sixth, but the freshman got her revenge in the top of the seventh with a two-run single to give NU the lead once more. Rudd added a two-run single to extend NU’s lead and the Wildcats moved to 4-1 on the season.

Northwestern will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. next weekend for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, facing both Louisville and North Carolina twice. First pitch against Louisville is scheduled for 10 a.m. CT on Feb. 15.