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Softball: ‘Cats end the regular season on a high note at Rutgers

The outright regular season Big Ten champions took two of three from the Scarlet Knights this weekend

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The regular season is over, and the Northwestern Wildcats (35-11, 20-3 B1G) aren’t splitting anything in the Big Ten. The ‘Cats will head into the conference tournament this week as outright regular season champs, hungry for postseason success.

Coming off a sweep against Nebraska last weekend, the ‘Cats headed to Jersey this weekend to take on Rutgers (32-24, 9-14 B1G) in the final series of the season. They got the job done, taking two of three from the Scarlet Knights in a hard-fought three-game set.

In game one on Friday, Northwestern disposed of Rutgers in just six innings, 11-2. The ‘Cats benefited from a three-RBI day for Kansas Robinson, who hit a two-run bomb in the second to extend the lead to 3-0 early in the contest. They wouldn’t look back from there. Jordyn Rudd, who had two RBIs herself, crushed a homer in the fourth to make it 5-0, and things got out of hand from there.

Danielle Williams was solid as always for the ‘Cats, pitching five innings and only allowing two earned runs. The California native saw her record improve to a whopping 16-1. Two runs in five frames almost seems like a disappointing start at this point for the surging ace.

On Saturday, the ‘Cats didn’t have much go right for them. Despite homers from Lauren Sciborski and Angela Zedak, Northwestern fell 7-3, evening the series at a game apiece.

Lauren Boyd had a rough one for the ‘Cats, surrendering four earned runs on nine hits over 3.2 innings in the circle. She was relieved by Sydney Supple, who continued her season-long struggles, allowing three earned runs in an inning and two thirds. Wildcat pitchers had a difficult time with the top of the Rutgers batting order, and it was enough of a factor to power the Scarlet Knights to victory in game two.

In the rubber match, Northwestern got a masterful performance from Danielle Williams in her second start of the weekend. She went all seven innings and pitched a shutout, leading the ‘Cats to a 2-0 victory and a series win. Williams improved to 17-1, and heads into postseason play on fire. As the ‘Cats prepare to take the field this week in the Big Ten Tournament, here are a couple of takeaways from this weekend’s action:

Kansas Robinson is rolling

The team leader in OPS is now hitting .300 and is a constant threat to opposing pitching. Robinson cranked a homer in game one and had two hits in game three. In game two, the only game in which she failed to get a hit, she still reached base, walking twice.

Robinson is a perfect two-hole hitter. She isn’t the most imposing hitter in the lineup, but she is tied for the lead on this roster in on base percentage at .438 and is a reliable option near the top of the order.

Robinson’s steady improvement throughout the season has been fun to watch, and she should be heading into postseason play feeling good about her year, and feeling even better about how she’s playing right now. Kansas Robinson has arrived and she’s making a statement.

The ‘Cats know how to bounce back

This Wildcat team has been pretty dominant all year long. They’re 20-3 in the conference — it can’t get much more dominant than that. But this Sunday’s win tells us more about this group. Saturday was a disappointing home loss against a decidedly worse team in Rutgers. Granted, after clinching the Big Ten regular season title on Friday, Saturday’s game was significantly less consequential, but most would still have penciled in Northwestern for a win.

But the ‘Cats bounced back and showed everyone what they were made of on Sunday. They trusted their ace in Danielle Williams, and she delivered, getting Northwestern back on track in the season finale.