After a tough series in West Lafayette, Ind., against Purdue last weekend, the Wisconsin softball team (12-6 Big Ten, 30-15 overall) heads home to regroup and lick their wounds.
By dropping two of three against a quality Boilermaker squad, the Badgers squandered an opportunity to share the lead in the Big Ten standings. With the two losses, Wisconsin dropped two places in the conference standings and is now sitting in fourth place.
“We just want to start off new and get some wins,” sophomore outfielder Mary Massei said. “Our mindset does not change just because we want to play our game.”
Despite the setback, there is still plenty of hope for the Badger faithful this year as the race for the league crown is completely up for grabs. As of Monday, there were four teams within a game of conference leader Michigan.
With five teams in the mix for the conference title, and two of those teams, Michigan and Nebraska, being on Wisconsin’s slate in the final two series of the season, the softball team is a group that is still very much in control of its destiny.
Before getting to play out a wild finish to the regular season, the Badgers will resume play Tuesday with a home game against Bradley. The Braves (9-14 Missouri Valley Conference, 19-27 overall) have struggled this season under third-year head coach Amy Hayes. However, the Badgers should not take Bradley lightly, as they have already knocked off one Big Ten team this season in Indiana.
“These games are very crucial, so it’s important that we come out strong with no let up,” Massei said.
Heading into the game, Wisconsin will face the challenge of having to adjust to a non-conference opponent in the midst of conference play. Oftentimes teams become used to a certain comfort in facing familiar opponents during league play. The unfamiliarity of a non-conference opponent can even the playing field between two mismatched opponents.
Despite the potential difficulties, the Badgers have dealt well with similar types of games this season. Since beginning the Big Ten slate with Iowa March 24 Wisconsin is unbeaten in seven non-conference games scheduled during weekdays.
“Whether it’s a conference game or not, we are always excited to play,” Massei said. “We really want to get some wins on the board this week.”
The series kicks off a whirlwind end to the regular season for the Badgers that can only be described as a sprint to the finish line. Beginning with Bradley, Wisconsin is embarking on a stretch of nine games over the next 12 days. By the end of it the softball program will have a clearer picture of how much progress has been made in head coach Yvette Healy’s second season. Tuesday’s game will be a great indicator of how the team will finish out.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, what our record is or how we played in the previous games. We are always coming out hungry,” Massei said.