March 21, 2007
The veteran sophomore picked up her second Big Ten Player of the Week honor this year on March 6. The Roscoe, Mo., native helped lead Northwestern to the championship game of the College World Series last year as the Wildcats starting freshman shortstop. Despite a 5-0 loss to Arizona in the best two-of-three finale, the Wildcat is determined as ever to scratch back into the final game. In 26 games, Williams is batting .529 with eight homeruns and 27 RBIs.
With her sophomore season underway, Wildcat Tammy Williams talks with the Big Ten about her efforts to ward off the evil sophomore slump, explains Northwestern's biggest wins of the season so far, remembers growing up watching West Coast teams dominate softball and weighs in on the importance of the 6-4 combo.
You're proving that the sophomore slump does not pertain to you by leading the team in almost every offensive category thus far. What did you work on the most in the off-season to prepare yourself for your second year?
I just worked on everything that we had been working on from last year. Last year, we just really focused on the fundamentals of softball and not getting too far ahead of ourselves. Basically, I just picked up exactly where we left off from a year ago.
Your recruitment process was pretty special in that you didn't know that you were coming to Northwestern until the last minute. Can you explain how you eventually made your way up north to Evanston?
I got a few offers in high school, but no place that I really wanted to go and not a lot of Division I schools. I finally decided that I would play for a junior college for a year and then try to go to a Division I school from there. Then in the summer after my senior year I got a call from Coach Drohan. I came on a visit and decided on Northwestern.
You came in your freshman year and earned the starting shortstop position and in doing so garnered All-Big Ten first team accolades as well as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. Did you ever think you would have such an immediate impact on the team?
You never expect to have an impact so early on. I think that as a team we bonded so well that it was really easy to be comfortable and confident in your role on the team.
What has been the biggest win of the season so far? Why?
We have had a lot of big wins this season, but I think that even the "small" games - the games against non-ranked opponents - are very important in establishing a program. Other people may look at those games as small wins, but I see them as being just as important.
Who do you look forward to playing against during the Big Ten season?
I look forward to playing everyone. I think we have some big rivals in the Big Ten conference and the first weekend should be exciting when we host Michigan at home.
Growing up, UCLA and Arizona dominated the softball scene. How is it now playing against these powerhouse teams and beating them?
[laughing] It is great. I think that those teams have always been the standard in softball, so Northwestern being able to come and play competitively and beat these teams is a huge step for the Midwest much like Michigan did a few years ago. It is great that softball has become less regional and more national.
Do you think that these same teams are afraid to play you?
I would say we have a good rivalry going on. I think they know now that it is going to be a tough game and we are going to fight through every inning. They definitely have to think about how hard they have to play and the intensity that we are going to come out with.
The 6-4 (shortstop-second base) tandem is pretty important on the field in terms of chemistry. How is the dynamic between you and freshman second baseman Nicole Pauly working out?
It is working out really well. She is turning out to be an amazing second baseman. She works hard in practice everyday. We work on the little things and make necessary adjustments for our combination to work. She is very easy to work with and very coach-able which makes working with a second baseman like that easy.
You and senior first baseman Garland Cooper lead this team statistically. Is there any friendly competition between you two?
There is always going to be competition but we really don't talk about it or really think about it to an extent. We are competitors by nature, but if she hits a home run, I will always be happy for her and I think it's the same way for her.
Who do you look up to most on the team?
I look up to a lot of different people in different aspects. I think the person that had the biggest effect on me last year was Cooper. She took me under her wing and acted as a parental role which established our relationship.
You are the fifth member of your family to play collegiate athletics. Who had the biggest influence on your athletic career?
Growing up I definitely got the most influence from my dad. He didn't play a sport in college, but he was really into softball and baseball. My brother Jamie, who is just a couple of years older than me, and I would always be in our backyard practicing. My dad always pushed me to be better and never let me be okay with the point I am at.