The old saying goes something like "it must be spring, pitchers and catchers are reporting." However, for the Wisconsin softball team (2-2), spring, and its season, has already begun.
The Badgers are entering their second season under head coach Yvette Healy. After finishing 2011 at No. 6 in the Big Ten and with a 30-23 record, Healy and the Badgers will be looking to continue to improve on their new-found success.
Last season was a vast upgrade from previous years. Prior to the arrival of Healy, the state of Wisconsin softball was far from ideal. In 2009, the Badgers finished with a record of 15-40, the worst record in the Big Ten. Though the 2010 season was better (they finished eighth in the conference), the team still did have to a winning record, ending at 20-31.
Wisconsin will look to the leadership of its returning players to continue this trend of improvement. The Badgers are returning 13 players from the 2011 season including, last year's wins leader in sophomore pitcher Cassandra Darrah, who had 16 Victories last spring.
Even though Big Ten play does not begin until March 24, the Badgers are already hard at work playing in tournaments scattered across the southern states.
Wisconsin opened play this past weekend at the USF Tournament, held in sunny Tampa, Fla.
The Badgers were challenged right from the start, going eight innings with Georgia Southern. Junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh pitched all eight innings, helping her team to a 3-2 victory and earning their first win of the season.
Despite a good start to the tournament, Wisconsin would be shutout in their next game by USF 5-0. The Badgers would go on to beat Drake 8-0 before falling to Arkansas 5-1.
The Badgers will next travel to Orlando, Fla. to participate in the Citrus Classic Spring College Games followed by a trip to Charleston, S.C. where they will play in the Charleston Southern Tournament.
Wisconsin continues its tournament schedule by heading west to Reno, Nev. to compete in the Nevada Tournament. The Badgers final stop will be Santa Barbara, Cali. for the Gaucho Classic II March 16-18.
Although the Badgers will not face conference opponents during these tournaments, they will see some strong competition. The spring tournaments are a great way for teams to prepare for conference play, and this is no exception for Wisconsin.
The Badgers finally open up Big Ten play March 24 with a three-game series against Iowa in Iowa City. Wisconsin opens its home schedule March 31 with a double header against Northwestern at Goodman Diamond.
There seems to be a lot to be excited about with this year's team, but that is the only the beginning for the Badgers. In her first recruiting class with Wisconsin, Healy got six National Letters of Intent. These six signees will join the team in the fall of 2013.