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Northwestern softball looks to make another run at Women's College World Series

Northwestern softball looks to make another run at Women's College World Series
Northwestern softball looks to make another run at Women's College World Series 02:34

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) – Last year, the Northwestern softball team fell just one game short of the Women's College World Series.

This year, they'll begin the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Northwestern heads into the tournament with some fresh hardware. Ashley Miller was named Pitcher of the Year, while Kate Drohan was named Coach of the Year for a third straight season.

She and her twin sister Caryl have another talented group with some unfinished business as they aim to get back to the World Series.

"It's the little kid dream that everyone has when they're little, to get back there. So we're really motivated this year, especially with a lot of underdog mentality going on," said outfielder Kelsey Nader.

Despite returning just five starters from a season ago, a young Northwestern team with good chemistry didn't miss a beat in conference play.

The Wildcats went 19-3 in Big Ten contests and won all eight conference series for a second straight year.

"I think our team created their own identity," Drohan said. "We have a lot of first years. We have a lot of younger players who are filling really big roles for us for the first time."

Three of the Cats' four top hitters this season are sophomores, including Kansas Robinson, who is leading the team in multiple categories and batting just over .400.

"We're just a fun bunch," Robinson said. "We're really close together. I think we had a nice position last year coming into a team with so much experience to really teach us."

The team feels that culture is what can help carry them to a second College World Series appearance in three years.

"What I've seen that's been really special about this team is how much momentum they gain from each other," Drohan said. "Like, really, how hard they work for each other and how that inspires them to give  a little more, give a little more."

Northwestern was one win away from a Women's College World Series appearance a year ago but fell in a one-run game to Alabama in the third game of the Super Regional. Players who were on that team, like graduate student Angela Zedak, understand what it takes to make a run in the postseason.

"Just having the experience of knowing the crowd, knowing the energy, and kinda knowing what it takes to win in the postseason is very valuable experience to have," said Zedak.

"It's about how can we be a little tougher? How can we finish a couple more at bats?" Drohan said. "I think we've seen some really great two-out hitting, some clutch moments and once they really understand that, any pitch we can change the game, that will be great."

It's a mentality that will be helpful for the Wildcats as they look to defend their Big Ten Tournament title as the No. 1 seed.

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