EVANSTON — It doesn’t come as a surprise nor should it have been unexpected, but Kenna Wilkey is having nothing but success at Northwestern University.
Wilkey, a 2017 graduate of Reed-Custer High School, quickly has fit in with the Wildcats’ softball program — one that owns an overall record of 30-13 and an 11-5 mark within Big Ten Conference action.
And while the adjustment to college was originally somewhat of a tough transition, a couple of familiar faces and her new teammates aided her in the process.
“It was difficult at first,” Wilkey said. “But once I got close to my teammates, they made the adjustment an easy one. Plus, I’ve still gotten to go home a few times and see my parents. They’re so supportive and have been at almost every game. It’s fun to see and hang out with them.”
It’s also fun to watch Wilkey work in the pitcher’s circle.
In 31 appearances this season, she owns a record of 15-4 with a 3.34 ERA. She also leads the team in strikeouts (109), opponents’ batting average (.227), complete games (8) and innings pitched (138 1/3).
“Adjusting to pitching to college batters was also, at first, difficult,” Wilkey said. “You have to mentally prepare a lot more and get your mind right. But once I knew I had a defense behind me, it was easy to adjust to.”
She’s also adjusted to hitting at the collegiate level. Take her .255 batting average, six home runs, 24 RBIs, 11 runs and .449 slugging percentage for example.
“Hitting is also kind of a mindset thing,” she said. “You have to go up thinking, ‘I’m going to get a hit.’ In high school, if you’re a decent hitter, you pretty much expect it. In college, that’s so much different. You just have to go up with confidence. That’s the biggest thing for me. You can’t be scared.”
Those numbers wouldn’t be possible for Wilkey to put up if it wasn’t for Northwestern coach Kate Drohan. There’s many things Wilkey loves about her head coach but topping the list is Drohan’s intensity.
“I love that about her,” Wilkey said. “I’ve gotten the chance to play so much because of work ethic and because of her [Drohan’s] confidence in me. Coach Drohan is always going to have your back, and she’s going to fight for you.”
Going forward, Wilkey’s Wildcats have dates with Iowa this weekend before traveling to DePaul and Wisconsin next week. They then will focus on the Big Ten Tournament in Madison, Wis., taking place May 10-12.
“We’re kind of taking it one game at a time,” Wilkey said. “We’re playing together, and we’re having fun. That’s what helps us get going. We want that Big Ten title.”