Behind a potent change-up, Northwestern freshman dazzles in Wildcats’ win over Nebraska
The Nebraska softball team has seen some of the nation’s top pitchers in recent weeks.
Add Danielle Williams and her signature change-up to the list.
On a pleasant Friday evening at Bowlin Stadium, the Northwestern left-hander showed why she is among the nation’s top freshmen in the Wildcats’ 8-0 win against the Huskers.
Williams struck out 10, scattered three hits and recorded her ninth shutout of the season, which ranks second in the country, in leading Northwestern (27-7, 7-0 Big Ten) to the series-opening win.
Williams, who improved to 18-3, mixed her pitches and mixed her spots, but it was one pitch in particular that gave the Husker hitters fits.
“Her change-up gets in your head, so it makes her other stuff that much better,” NU coach Rhonda Revelle said. “She is the exact reason I love the change-up. Every All-American pitcher we’ve ever had, their whole game is around their their change-up, their off-speed.
“She’ll be an All-American. Probably this year.”
Williams used the change-up -- effective because she disguises it out of her hand so well -- to record many of her 10 strikeouts. She was efficient in doing so, throwing only 94 pitches and lowering her earned-run average from 1.19 to 1.14.
In a two-week span, the Huskers have seen Williams, Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien (twice) and Drake’s Nicole Newman (twice). Beaubien and Newman were All-Americans last year.
“We’ve faced some really good pitching, but here’s the thing,” Revelle said. “If we want to grow this program back to that level, we’ve got to be able to compete and beat those kind of teams. We need to continue to learn to fight, and I felt like the first two times through the lineup when the game was 1-0, I thought we were trying to scratch and claw and figure it out. Then they gained a little distance on the lead and then we gave in to some pitches.”
Making Williams even tougher: She’s a lefty. There are not many left-handed aces in college softball, and the Huskers entered the weekend hitting .162 against lefties, compared to .267 against righties.
“Look at the best in our game right now,” Revelle said. “Monica Abbott is a lefty, Cat Osterman is a lefty, Keilani Ricketts is a lefty. There’s obviously some advantages there because you don’t see a majority of them.”
Northwestern scored four runs in the fifth inning to give Williams, a two-way threat, a nice cushion with which to work.
Rachel Lewis opened the inning by planting her 10th home run of the season into the left-center berm, Maeve Nelson made it 3-0 on a dart that cleared the right-field fence, and Lily Novak added a two-out, two-run double.
Northwestern added three more runs in the seventh on an RBI double, an RBI triple and an RBI sacrifice fly.
Freshman Courtney Wallace (2-3), who pitched five innings, took the loss for the Huskers (13-20, 2-5).
Wallace, Madi Unzicker and Lexey Kneib each recorded hits -- all singles -- for the Huskers.
Game 2 is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Bowlin Stadium.