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Kansas Robinson’s emergence makes Northwestern far more dangerous

The rookie sure doesn’t play like one.

Photo by Jonah Elkowitz/Northwestern Athletics

When five super seniors announced they’d be coming back to Evanston for a graduate year in 2023, Northwestern immediately became a threat to reclaim the Big Ten crown and return to the Women’s College World Series.

Yet, the Wildcats still needed more and had quite a large Big Ten Player of the Year-sized hole to fill with Rachel Lewis moving on. Northwestern struggled out of the gates to score runs against top-10 opponents, and experimented with a variety of lineup changes to figure out what worked.

Enter Kansas Robinson.

The first-year from Indianapolis is one of two rookies in the starting lineup, joining Kelsey Nader, and has made all the difference in the Wildcats’ success lately. Northwestern has recorded an 18-2 record in conference play, and in those games, Robinson has risen to the occasion.

“She’s doing a lot of damage with two strikes,” head coach Kate Drohan said. “That, for a first-year, shows that she’s just battling and really keeping a good, simple approach.”

Since becoming a regular starter at the beginning of conference play, Robinson has batted .296 while trailing only Nikki Cuchran in OPS. Robinson’s five home runs and .685 slugging percentage in Big Ten games, meanwhile, are the highest on the Wildcats. In her last 44 at bats, spanning just over a month, she’s batting .363.

For much of the year, Robinson was hitting in the bottom third of the order — a young player who had the chance to gain lots of experience from the people in front of her. As the season has progressed, though, she hasn’t just been a glimpse of the team’s potential in a post-super senior era; Robinson has become one of the best batters on the team. Her place in the lineup has reflected that: Drohan made the switch in the Michigan series finale to move Robinson to the second slot in the order and hasn’t looked back.

Robinson has contributed many clutch moments throughout the year, but perhaps none have been bigger than in Northwestern’s recent victories over Nebraska. A day after hitting a home run and tallying six RBIs in the ‘Cats’ series-opening 22-4 win, Robinson was not initially able to replicate the same success. The Wildcats had come back from down 6-2 in the seventh inning to send the game to extras, but Robinson herself was 0-for-4 at the plate. However, the first-year ultimately had the biggest hit of the day in the ninth inning, launching a two-run walk-off homer to complete the comeback, 8-6.

Not to one-up themselves, the ‘Cats went down 9-4 on Sunday, but a six-run fifth inning through torrential downpour brought NU all the way back to win 10-9, a rally that ended up winning Northwestern the Big Ten for the second year in a row. Every single run in that fateful fifth frame came with two outs on the board.

The game-winning run, of course, was scored by none other than Kansas Robinson.

As the conditions became worse and worse, the pitches seemed to be getting away from the Cornhusker pitcher and catcher more often than earlier in the game. Robinson, who was on third base, said she planned to run home if she saw a passed ball opportunity, and didn’t have any hesitation.

When the ball rolled behind the catcher, Robinson saw her chance and took it, diving home to score the conference-winning run.

Robinson’s rise from rotational first-year to key asset has given Northwestern a massive boost as the regular season comes to a close. As the lights have gotten brighter, she hasn’t shied away, and has delivered clutch moment after clutch moment.

“Rather than letting the pressure suffocate us, we eat into it,” Robinson said about the team’s success in two-out situations. “We love the pressure; we love playing in those conditions and we perform better that way.”

With the postseason beginning next week, Northwestern certainly has the firepower to make a deep run. The team’s performance will rely heavily on the consistency of the pitching, but in terms of putting up runs, the ‘Cats have proven they’ll be lethal over the next month, due in part to Robinson’s recent breakout.