Kansas Robinson and Northwestern softball enter the postseason with a 3rd straight Big Ten title

Kansas Robinson wanted to play Division I softball since she was 8 years old. As a high school senior in Indianapolis, she received a scholarship offer from her dream school, Ohio State — but it was Northwestern that won the infielder’s commitment.

Last weekend at Sharon J. Drysdale Field in Evanston, Victoria Monét’s “On My Mama” played while fans behind home plate screamed Robinson’s name as she stepped to the plate. One of the best hitters in the Big Ten, the sophomore leads the Wildcats in batting average (.409), hits (54), RBIs (34), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.773) and on-base percentage (.515).

Robinson and the Wildcats (33-10, 19-3) clinched their third consecutive regular-season Big Ten title Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Indiana, winning two of three in the series. Before Saturday’s 8-3 loss, they hadn’t lost at home since April 3, 2022 — a 38-game streak.

The top-seeded Wildcats will open Big Ten Tournament play Thursday in Iowa City (11 a.m., BTN) with a quarterfinal against the winner of Wednesday’s Indiana-Purdue matchup.

Last season Northwestern won its first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2008 but fell just short of a return to the Women’s College World Series, losing to Alabama in a three-game super regional. With five key veteran leaders graduating and the team welcoming nine newcomers to the roster, expectations for this year’s team were tempered.

“Culture-wise, this team has always been the same,” Robinson told the Tribune. “We bring the same energy, same beliefs. It’s just a few different people each year.

“The transition hasn’t been that hard. I had a good group of girls last year that made my transition coming in freshman year in general a lot easier. And so that let me have a lot of confidence going into this year.”

In her first year in Evanston, Robinson started 42 games and was named to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team. Her 1.001 OPS ranked second on the team and was the highest by an NU freshman since Rachel Lewis in 2018, and Robinson also tied for second on the team with nine home runs.

“She’s one of the most hard-working hitters I’ve ever seen,” said Kelsey Nader, a sophomore outfielder and Robinson’s roommate. “She’s putting time in. And even when her swing isn’t feeling the best, she’s putting even more time in to keep that consistency. That’s something that not a lot of people take the time to do — especially when you’re as good and (have) as good of an eye as Kansas does.”

Robinson credits the team atmosphere created by coach Kate Drohan and her associate head coach and twin sister, Caryl, for why she chose Northwestern and what makes her and the team successful.

“Kate and Caryl are amazing people,” Robinson explained. “I knew as soon as I talked to them that this is the place I wanted to go. They treat me like their own. They treat everyone like their own.

“You can ask former players from 10 years ago, you can ask players from last year and the ones coming in. They’re very consistent. You know what you’re getting when you’re coming in.”

Nader agrees.

“The coaches … they’re one of a kind,” she said. “No matter what school you’re at, they care about you just as much as human beings as softball players, and that goes a really long way. They believe in you even sometimes when you don’t believe in yourself. And that is a really big key that not a lot of people and not a lot of cultures possess.

“I think that’s really the separation of why they’re such amazing coaches, and they really know how to truly treat the game right. They’ve taught us how to treat the game right. And that goes a really long way.”

After this week’s Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats will begin NCAA regional play May 17 as they seek the program’s seventh WCWS berth.

“We really want to lean on our youth,” Nader said. “And just go show everyone what we’re all about and continue to write our Northwestern softball story.”

Women’s lacrosse repeats as Big Ten Tournament champ

Reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Izzy Scane tied Charlotte North’s NCAA record for career goals (358) and led the top-ranked Wildcats to a 14-12 victory over Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament final Saturday in Evanston. It’s the second straight year and third time in three seasons that Northwestern swept the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles.

Scane ranks fifth in the country this season with 70 goals, and she had five goals and one assist in the title game en route to earning tournament MVP honors.

With the win, Northwestern (15-2, 5-1) secured the Big Ten’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will open play at 1 p.m. Sunday at Martin Stadium in Evanston against the winner of Friday’s Denver-Stanford match.