Northwestern left no doubt about its mission on the softball diamond on Friday afternoon in the Evanston Regional. The Wildcats had a big win over Oakland to open the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats used a 5-run 5th inning to post a convincing 9-2 victory over the Grizzlies to start the tourney.

Runs came early for Northwestern, which jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Bottom 1st. Skyler Shellmyer was the first Wildcat to cross home plate, scoring on a triple by Rachel Lewis. Jordyn Rudd was responsible for the second RBI of the game, hitting in Lewis.

Oakland knotted the game at 2-2 in the Top 2nd but the Wildcats were immediately able to create separation in the bottom half of the inning. Maeve Nelson launched a solo home run to put Northwestern ahead 3-2.

That proved to be the winning run.

Northwestern added another run in the 4th inning but it was Nelson who proved to be the difference again.

In the 5th inning, Nelson hit a 3-run shot to give the Wildcats a 7-2 lead on Oakland. Later in the inning, Angela Zedak and Hannah Cady scored off a Grace Nieto single to left field to make the score 9-2.

Nelson ended the game with 4 RBIs to lead the Wildcats while Nieto added 2.

Danielle Williams pitched all 7 innings for the Wildcats. She surrendered 4 hits but had 8 strikeouts with just 1 base on balls.

Northwestern will play McNeese State on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT.