Northwestern's Danielle Williams Has The Country On Notice
Growing up in a softball family, Northwestern ace Danielle Williams has always been surrounded by the sport. So for Williams, choosing to keep living her softball dream and playing at the Division I level was a no-brainer.
“My older sister played softball too, and my parents coached, so I was constantly around the sport,” Williams told Softball America. “We were always outside playing together, and it was fun.”
From the moment she stepped onto the field at Northwestern, Williams took the Big Ten and the rest of the college softball world by storm. As a freshman for the Wildcats back in 2019, Williams showed the country that she deserved to be talked about among the very best names in college softball.
The Pleasanton, Calif. native quickly became the ace of Northwestern's staff, as she went 31-8 in her debut season with 317 strikeouts and a 1.55 ERA. Her dominant presence on the mound in 2019 led the Wildcats to a super regional appearance for the first time since 2008. And the honors piled up for Williams, as the crafty left-handed pitcher was not only named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but also the National Freshman of the Year and an All-American.
“When I found out (about my awards), I was with my family and I wished the rest of the team was there because I wouldn’t have been able to get there on my own,” said Williams. “They are fielding balls, throwing out runners, producing runs. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten there without them.”
Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said she was not really surprised by all the success Williams had in her first season of college softball.
“Danielle is an incredible competitor,” Drohan said. “She has a consistent approach to the game, in regards to her work ethic. And when she came in as a freshman, she had good stuff, so I was not really surprised. I think I was most impressed with how poised and how calm she was on the mound.”
Before coming to Northwestern, Williams had some familiarity with the program since her older sister, Krista, also played for Drohan, which definitely influenced her decision to become a Wildcat.
“My sister played a year before me, so I kind of knew what I was getting myself into,” Williams said. “Playing for Kate and (associate head coach) Caryl (Drohan), and the family culture that they create within the team at Northwestern, was something I knew I was looking for.”
Drohan knew from the early days recruiting Williams, well before she joined the program, that she was going to become an integral part of Northwestern's future success.
“I have known Danielle and her family since she was really young, and honestly, she’s a gamer, a really competitive person,” Drohan said. “What stood out to us was how she battled on the field, and we loved her personality off of it.”
After a spectacular freshman campaign in 2019, Williams has not gotten to enjoy a full season of college softball since then, as the 2020 season was cut short by the pandemic, and the 2021 season was limited to a conference-only schedule in the Big Ten. With the return of non-conference games for Big Ten teams in 2022, Williams was ecstatic to get back in the circle.
And she's already made her presence felt this season. Williams has led the Wildcats to a 7-2 record thus far—including wins over UCLA and Clemson—and the No. 9 ranking in Softball America's latest Top 25.
“We're going to be very fun to watch,” Williams said. “We are very close as a team, which is something that can't be taught or coached.”