The team huddles up before a game in 2021. The 2024 iteration of this team is all about teamwork, with multiple power hitters and a masterful pitching rotation. Photo by Brandi Simpson/North by Northwestern.

There’s something to be said about consistency in a sport. It’s hard to be at the top, let alone being at the top for the better part of two decades. Under head coach Kate Drohan, Northwestern softball (33-11, 19-3 B1G) is once again headed to the NCAA tournament for the 17th time in Drohan’s 23-year tenure.

The Wildcats are led by young power hitters. Second-year second baseman Kansas Robinson tormented pitchers while in the batter’s box. A First Team All-B1G selection, Robinson led the team in RBIs (34) and home runs (11) while being second in the conference in on-base percentage. If you thought you were safe after getting past Robinson, fellow second-year first baseman Kelsey Nader reinforced how scary the top of the batting lineup is. She is second on the team in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs and stolen bases.

Not to be left out of the fun, first-year catcher Emma Raye burst onto the scene this season, earning a spot on both the All-Freshman B1G Team and the All-Defensive B1G Team. Raye led the team with 238 putouts and was second in RBIs with 30 and home runs with 10. Graduate left-fielder Angela Zedak is third on the team in home runs, batting average, runs and hits and brought a veteran leadership presence to the team after many seniors graduated.

On the mound, graduate pitcher Ashley Miller boasts an incredible ERA of 1.33, placing her at 11th best in the nation, which earned her B1G Pitcher of the Year honors and a unanimous First Team All-B1G selection. The Michigan State transfer was a batter’s worst nightmare, leading the Wildcats to the best team ERA in the conference at 2.26.

A tough road lies ahead for Northwestern if they want to repeat and exceed last year’s success. The Wildcats are playing in the Austin Region with Saint Francis (PA) (40-12, 24-0 NEC), Siena (33-20, 12-11 MAAC) and No. 1 overall seed Texas (47-7, 23-4 Big 12). They will take on Saint Francis on Friday, May 17, at 5:30 p.m. CDT. If they win that game, the Wildcats will likely face Texas on Saturday and have to play them at least twice to advance.

Northwestern has shown that year in and year out, they will be a good team – a great team, even. Is this the year all the pieces come together and finally earn them a championship? Only time will tell.