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Five Big Ten Offensive Threats To Watch In 2023

natalie denhartog minnesota photo by brad rempel.jpg
(Photo by Brad Rempel/Minnesota Athletics)

2022 was a special season for Big Ten hitters. Rachel Lewis finished her illustrious career at Northwestern with a bang, leading the conference in home runs with 23, RBIs with 62 and slugging percentage, runs scored, walks and OPS. Ally Kurland had a career season at Penn State, smashing 16 home runs and 18 doubles, and Kayla Konwent led the Big Ten in on-base percentage and hit 10 home runs of her own for Wisconsin.

There are five other big hitters in the Big Ten who we expect to be significant threats at the plate in 2023. See them below.

Natalie DenHartog

Graduate Student, Minnesota

You would be hard-pressed to find a more consistent offensive performer in the Big Ten than DenHartog. Known for her trademark leg lift and smooth swing, coming into this season, she leads all active Big Ten players in home runs, RBIs and total bases.

In a sign of things to come in her first career start against Florida State in 2019, she hit a home run after previously hitting one earlier in the day in another game. It began a pattern that has not stopped since, and in 2022, she became Minnesota’s all-time home run leader with the 52nd bomb of her career.

Last year, she finished the season having reached base safely in the final 18 games she played. The season before that, she had a 14-game streak of reaching base safely.

Cora Bassett

Senior, Indiana

After playing her first two seasons for Indiana University’s rival Purdue, Bassett made her way to Bloomington for her junior year and made it a memorable one.

She held a .400 batting average for the 2022 season, scored 57 runs, racked up 62 hits and tallied 19 doubles and 13 home runs, which were all career-high marks. She also reached base in more than half of her at-bats, garnering a .505 on-base percentage, partly due to walking 29 times. Overall, she finished second in the conference in doubles—one behind Michigan’s Kristina Burkhardt—and tied for first in runs per game. Additionally, her 19 doubles were good for the most all-time in a single season in program history.

Avrey Steiner

Fifth Year, Illinois

Steiner simply knows how to hit. In 2022, she had a career season in every aspect. She had a career-high batting average, hitting .391 for the season, a career-high mark in runs with 35, career-high hits with 77 (which led the conference) and the list goes on. She hit safely in 48 of the 56 games she played, had 21 multi-hit games and a 15-game hitting streak from March to April. The Ohio native may not hit for power, but she certainly gets on base, continuously improving her on-base percentage each season.

Steiner is a member of an Illini team that thrives on its offense, and for the past three seasons, she has led the team in batting average and hits. As a career .344 hitter, it is safe to say she is on track to put up more impressive numbers this season.

Billie Andrews

Junior, Nebraska

Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years last season. A big reason behind that success was the breakout season of Billie Andrews. After hitting seven home runs in 2021, the Gretna, Neb. product blasted 20 home runs in 2022, good for the second-best mark in the Big Ten. In addition, she drove in 51 runs, scored 54 runs and totaled 59 hits, all career highs.

Andrews made plenty of noise her freshman season as well, leading all Big Ten freshmen in hits, runs and RBIs. Last season, especially, she proved difficult for any hurler to retire—she had a 23-game hitting streak from February to March.

It is the threat of the long ball, however, that makes Andrews a feared hitter. She went yard in five straight games at one point last season.

Katie Keller

Graduate Student, Wisconsin

Keller can do a lot of things at the plate. She can hit home runs (she has 21 in her career), she can collect base hits (she has 209 career hits), she can steal bases (she has 43 career stolen bases), but more than anything, she can hit doubles.

Among all active players in the nation, no one has more doubles than Keller. In her freshman season in 2019, she had 21 doubles, followed by eight doubles in the shortened 2020 season, then 23 doubles in 2021 and 20 doubles in 2022. That all adds up to 72 two-baggers, 19 shy of the all-time Division I record held by Sara Pickering, who played for Washington from 1994 to 1997.

After four years at Northern Illinois University, Keller decided to transfer to Wisconsin for her final season of college softball. If her previous success is any indication, that long-held doubles record may be in trouble this year.

natalie denhartog photo by minnesota athletics.jpg

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