Powered by first-year pitcher Danielle Williams, Northwestern (11-3) won four of five games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic this weekend, three of them one-run games.
The ‘Cats defeated BYU, Duke, Utah and Long Beach State on Friday and Saturday before losing to fifth-ranked Washington Sunday at one of the country’s most prestigious non-conference tournaments.
Williams took her first loss of the year against Washington, but she had another excellent weekend, posting a 1.29 ERA in 21.2 innings with 22 strikeouts. She went 3-1 on the weekend, and the freshman is 9-1 this year.
“The really neat thing about Danielle is she loves the game and her work ethic matches that … “ head coach Kate Drohan said. “That’s why she is so calm in the moment.”
Game 1: Northwestern 1, BYU 0
Opening up the weekend against BYU, senior Morgan Nelson drove in sophomore Rachel Lewis in the first inning on a single, and that’s all Williams would need. She threw a one-hit, complete game en route to blanking the Cougars, as Northwestern would win its first of three one-run games this weekend.
Game 2: Northwestern 6, Duke 5 (F/8)
Later that evening against Duke, Williams once again lifted Northwestern to a win with a walk-off single in the eighth inning. The walk-off hit also gave her the pitching win after throwing two scoreless innings. Talk about double duty. Morgan Newport went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs, and Maeve Nelson went 1-for-3 with two RBIs to power the ‘Cats offense.
Game 3: Northwestern 10, Utah 0 (F/5)
A night’s sleep brought sophomore pitcher Kenna Wilkey and the Wildcats a change of pace from the two close contests they had won the day before. Against the Utes, there was hardly a doubt. Over four innings, Northwestern lit up Utah’s Chantelle Ladner for six hits and eight runs, seven of them earned. Wilkey dealt five scoreless innings while striking out seven, and a six-run bottom half of fifth gave the ‘Cats the mercy. Catcher Jordan Rudd went 1-for 3 with three RBIs, Nikki Cuchran went 1-for-2 with an RBI, Lily Novak went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and Maeve Nelson finished the game with a three-run homer.
Game 4: Northwestern 2, Long Beach State 1
Danielle. Williams. The woman simply cannot be contained. The first-year tossed another complete-game gem, and she drove in what would be the game-winning run in the second inning. It was a quick, clean game, and Williams gave up just one run, which ended her 15.2-inning scoreless streak.
Game 5: Washington 3, Northwestern 1
The Wildcats’ lone ranked opponent of the weekend, and first of the year, was their toughest matchup. Against the fifth-ranked Washington Huskies, Danielle Williams found her kryptonite, throwing another solid start -- 5.2 innings allowing 3 runs -- but taking her first loss of the year. Her record now sits at a stellar 9-1. Northwestern led 1-0 deep into the game, but a three-run Husky fifth inning doomed the ‘Cats in what would’ve been a big upset.
“It was definitely a missed opportunity but that’s what a postseason game is going to feel like,” Drohan said after the loss. “So for us to have this experience in February and for us to be able to shore up some areas and learn from it, make some better adjustments offensively, it’s a gift. And what we do with it is up to us now.”
Northwestern is now 11-3 on the season, its best start to a season since 1987 when the ‘Cats started 12-2. They’ve gotten production from up and down the lineup, and Danielle Williams has been nothing short of sensational in her first season. NU’s four wins this weekend came over opponents with losing records, but the season is young and BYU, Long Beach State and Washington were all NCAA Tournament teams last year. Behind this weekend’s 4-1 mark, the ‘Cats could edge even closer to getting a number in front of their name.
The Wildcats will head to Palo Alto next weekend to take on Stanford, Cal Poly, Montana, and North Dakota State.