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Softball: Under the Radar Players to Impact the ‘Cats’ NCAA Tournament Run

It takes all 21 to get to the WCWS.

Ryan Kuttler/Northwestern Athletics

“One through nine, we’re kind of nasty.”

Maeve Nelson exclaimed this after lifting the ‘Cats to a Big Ten Title. Yet, in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats will need all 21 members of the roster to be at the top of their game. While Northwestern has stuck with the same starting lineup for the majority of the season, its role players will play a significant part in the Wildcats' pursuit to return to Oklahoma City. Specifically, these three Wildcats will be needed in a big moment throughout the NCAA Tournament.

Lauren Sciborski

It’s not easy sitting behind one of the best catchers in the nation, but Sciborski has been ready every time her name has been called in 2023. No. 2 has seen action in roughly half of NU’s games this season but was extremely efficient at the plate. Of her nine hits this season, five have been for extra bases — including four bombs. If the sophomore gets a hold of one, there is a good chance that it is leaving the yard. Her .667 slugging percentage is the best on the roster, 60 points ahead of Northwestern’s second-best — resident slugger Angela Zedak. Also, Sciborski has not shied away from the bright lights. It was her bases-clearing double that tied the second game of the Nebraska series and No. 2’s heads-up base running that tied the Big Ten Tournament championship game — sprinting home on a wild pitch.

When the ‘Cats need a big hit in the NCAA Tournament, look for Sciborski to be coach Kate Drohan’s first move off the bench.

Bridget Donahey

Northwestern’s resident pinch-runner has been a threat on the bases all season. No. 5 has seen the field in 36 games, although she only has 30 at-bats. Donahey has been asked to run in multiple big spots, giving the ‘Cats much-needed speed on the base paths; however, while she is primarily used as a pinch-runner, Donahey only has one stolen base attempt this season. The first year has been very conservative on the bases, but that may change in the NCAA Tournament. Expect Donahey to be aggressive, as any extra base can be the difference against the top teams in college softball.

Cami Henry

I’m not sure if this counts as under the radar, but I’m gonna go with it. After multiple rough starts in a row, Henry has pitched less than an inning in the month of May. However, No. 14 has shown she can be an effective pitcher against the best teams in the country. Henry took the circle against both No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 UCLA, giving up one run in three innings. She also started against No. 4 Tennessee, throwing a complete game and giving up four earned runs. Henry’s power pitching can get batters to swing and miss but leaves her vulnerable to the long ball. However, if the matchup is correct, I could see No. 14 entering the game to punch out the side.