CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Northwestern University Softball took home the Big Ten Tournament crown in thrilling fashion Saturday.
Down 1-0 going into their final at-bats, the Wildcats’ Jordyn Rudd led off the bottom of the seventh with a line drive single into left field. Then, Grace Nieto laid down a sacrifice bunt to move pinch runner Lauren Sciborski to second, before Hannah Cady followed her with a single to put runners at first and third before Nikki Cuchran worked an 8-pitch walk that ended on a wild pitch, allowing Sciborski to score from third, and tying the game at 1-1.
Next, Cady and Cuchran advanced to second and third on the same wild pitch before the Hoosiers elected to walk Angela Zedak to reload the bases.
Down 1-2 in the count, Maeve Nelson squared up a pitch from Indiana’s Heather Johnson and drove a one-hopper off the right centerfield fence at Eichelberger Field. The knock drove in Cady from third, and sealed a walk-off victory, 2-1.
The come-from-behind win marked the first time in program history that Northwestern won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament title in the same season, and the first time the Wildcats have won the tournament since 2008.
Danielle Williams — who tossed a complete game for Northwestern, finishing with 7.0 IP, 4 Ks, 0 BBs, 4 hits and 1 unearned run — was named Most Outstanding Player for the Big Ten Tournament.
What turned out to be the only run of the game for the Hoosiers came via a pickle play in the top of the third.
Indiana left fielder Cassidy Kettlemen was caught between third and home after Williams fielded a sac bunt attempt from the Hoosier’s Cora Basset. Williams fired to Nelson covering third, who gave chase to Basset. Basset avoided the tag and stayed in the baseline according to the home plate umpire, while Nelson fired down to second base to get a second runner in what the Wildcats thought was an inning-ending double play.
Instead, replay review upheld the home plate umpire’s call — that Nelson missed the tag and Basset stayed in the baseline, but still got the runner at second — and Indiana took a 1-0 lead on what amounted to a RBI fielder’s choice.
Despite the loss, the Hoosiers still made program history themselves, earning their first-ever appearance in the Big Ten title game Saturday.
Next up for Northwestern, the field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament will be revealed Sunday during a live broadcast presentation on ESPN 2 starting at 6 p.m. CST.