It’s fair to say that Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan and her twin sister and associate head coach Caryl have earned their place in NU athletics history. Thirteen NCAA tournament appearances, five Regional titles, two Big Ten Championships and a set of back-to-back Women’s College World Series semifinal appearances mark their tenure.
This weekend, though, they gained perhaps their most significant accolade yet. With their 641st career victory, the twins broke the program record for all-time wins previously held by Kate’s predecessor Sharon J. Drysdale — for whom Northwestern’s softball field is named — during the Wildcats’ first home stand in nearly two years.
The series against Wisconsin featured all the hallmarks of the NU program under sisters Drohan, with the Wildcats mounting a furious comeback in the opener and later displaying their strength on both sides of the ball with dominant pitching and hitting performances that helped the team further pad its Big Ten-leading record.
In the aforementioned first game of the weekend, the Badgers did what practically no other opponent has managed this entire season, putting up five runs (four earned) against Northwestern’s ace Danielle Williams before the junior was pulled after four innings of work. Inside NU’s very own Sydney Supple pitched three relatively flawless innings of relief, allowing only three hits and no runs.
From there, the Cardiac ‘Cats began to rally. NU put a three-run dent in Wisconsin’s 5-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth with RBIs from Hannah Cady, Supple and Rachel Lewis. Then, with Northwestern down to its final two outs and with two runners on, Lauryn Boyd lowered the deficit to one with an RBI fielder’s choice before Supple walked it off with a two-run wall-ball double.
Following their Friday victory, the Drohans needed only one more win to reach 641. With a doubleheader on tap, Saturday provided two opportunities for the Wildcats to make history.
In the first game, the Badgers quickly found themselves in control early again. UW led 3-0 before Supple struck once more, this time with her first-career home run, a three-run blast that evened the score. Wisconsin battled back and retook the lead 7-5 in the top of the third inning. But the Wildcats’ bats were ablaze to start the doubleheader, and the Badgers simply couldn’t keep up. Northwestern would ultimately score 15 runs, a season high, the last of which came on an walk-off RBI single from Skyler Shellmyer that secured a 15-7 mercy rule victory for the Wildcats — and the all-time wins record for the Drohans — in the bottom of the sixth.
The celebration couldn’t ensue just yet, though, as there was still a second game to be played. Morgan Newport, who went 4-for-4 with a homer and double and tossed 2.1 innings of relief in the day’s first game, took the circle to start the second leg and was practically perfect, throwing a complete game shutout, NU’s seventh of the season. She also launched a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth and was later supported with a two-RBI double from Angela Zedak and an RBI single from Nikki Cuchran. Following the routine 4-0 victory, the Wildcats showered their coaches with celebratory ice baths in acknowledgement of their record-breaking feat.
In the final game of the four-game set, Danielle Williams once again took the circle to start, and again looked hittable. She pitched a complete game but allowed five earned runs, three of which came in the game’s final inning. However, she got much more consistent offensive support throughout the game than in the series opener, including three RBI off the red-hot bat of Supple. She helped her own cause by knocking in two more as the Wildcats prevailed 6-5 to give Williams her eighth win of the season and keep her unblemished record intact.
NU now sits at 15-1, two games ahead of the Big Ten’s next-best club, Michigan. They’ll look to continue their winning ways in College Park, where they’ll meet Maryland (7-9) for a four-game series next weekend.