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Previewing Northwestern softball’s infielders

Both past fixtures and first-years will man the bases in 2024.

NCAA Softball: Women’s College World Series UCLA vs Northwestern Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just one week away from the 2024 softball season, so it’s time to take a look at NU’s infielders. There will be significant turnover — catcher Jordyn Rudd, first baseman Nikki Cuchran and shortstop Maeve Nelson have all moved on — so the ‘Cats need some youngsters to step up. With that being said, let’s look at every infielder on NU’s roster this season.

Lauren Sciborski, junior

Sciborski is the presumed heir to catcher Jordyn Rudd, who held it down behind the plate for five stellar seasons. In seven starts and 22 appearances in 2023, Sciborski hit .273 with a .981 OPS in 33 at-bats. She had a great March, punctuated by a 3-for-3 day against UIC and a five-RBI day against DePaul. Sciborski has an excellent blend of power and agility, and she is in line for a breakout season in her third year at Northwestern.

Bridget Donahey, sophomore

Donahey struggled in limited action during her first year with the ‘Cats, collecting just two hits and 14 strikeouts in 32 at-bats. In her defense, it’s not easy to produce with such inconsistent playing time. There’s no doubt that she’s incredibly talented — not only was Donahey ranked No. 13 in the 2022 recruiting class, but her two sisters are also Division I softball players. As she takes over for Maeve Nelson at shortstop, expect a big leap for the sophomore in her first year with meaningful playing time.

Kansas Robinson, sophomore

Robinson flaunted her precocious hitting tools in her freshman season, smacking nine home runs and finishing with a 1.001 OPS — the highest for a Northwestern first-year starter since the great Rachel Lewis in 2018. Her first multi-homer game came in a huge spot, as she led the ‘Cats to victory in Game 2 of the Evanston Regional against Kentucky. Robinson is the next big thing in Evanston, and the Big Ten All-Freshman selection could either slot in across the infield or stick at DP.

Hannah Cady, senior

The steadfast Cady started all 55 games at third base in 2023 and was named Second Team All Big-Ten, hitting .285 with six home runs and 29 RBI in 158 at-bats. She’s a solid defender in the hot corner, but her power is the real star of the show. Cady cut down on her strikeouts last year and should only continue to improve her average in her senior season.

Emma Raye, first-year

Raye shined at Superior High School in Wisconsin, starring on her softball and basketball teams for all four years. A catcher in high schools, he was named Wisconsin FSCA Division 1 Player of the Year in 2022 and was ranked No. 34 in her recruiting class. At 5-foot-9, Raye could see some spot starts at first base after Nikki Cuchran graduated. Raye should also be next in line to take over Sciborski’s duties behind the dish if necessary.

Grace Nieto, junior

Nieto had a tough 2023, dealing with an injury that limited her to just 28 games at second base. But Northwestern fans know what she can do at the plate — she hit a whopping .324 as a first-year and swiped six bases, earning a Big Ten All-Freshman Team nod. Nieto is a bounce-back candidate in 2024 as she looks to return to stay healthy all season.

Ainsley Muno, first-year

Muno is a power hitter in every sense of the word. She smacked the living daylight out of the ball in her junior year of high school, posting a 1.495 OPS with 15 home runs and 60 RBI. Standing at six feet tall, Muno could be named as the starter at first base. The Barrington native will hit her fair share of balls off of Welsh-Ryan Arena during her time as a Wildcat.

Ayana Lindsey, junior

Lindsey made 18 starts in right field and at DP in 2023, hitting .241 with a .727 OPS in 54 at-bats. She’s definitely versatile, as she played shortstop in high school and has the speed to stick anywhere. If sophomore Kelsey Nader slots into center field this season, Lindsey could take over in right.

Grace Minarovic, first-year

Minarovic had a storied high school career — she holds records for career home runs and single-season home runs at The John Cooper School in her hometown of The Woodlands, Texas. Her athleticism should be very important in pinch running situations. Minarovic swiped 22 bases as a junior and can play anywhere she’s needed in the infield.