The Wisconsin softball team (12-6 Big Ten, 33-15 overall) will play its final home series of the season this weekend against current Big Ten leader Michigan (13-5, 34-15).
The Badgers are coming off three non-conference wins against Bradley and Green Bay this week, falling two-games-to-one against Purdue last weekend. They are looking to extend their 13-game home win streak with victories over No. 29 Michigan.
“[The Purdue series] is in the back of our mind. We weren’t happy with our performance there,” said sophomore infielder Stephanie Peace, who went 4-for-8 Wednesday with two triples and four RBI. “We don’t want to let that happen this weekend.”
Sophomore pitcher Cassandra Darrah recorded her ninth shutout of the season in a 4-0 effort over Green Bay in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, improving to 21 wins and 21 complete games.
After going down 2-0 in the first inning of the nightcap, Wisconsin was able to come back, while junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh and sophomore pitcher Amanda Najdek held the Phoenix scoreless through the last six innings.
Head coach Yvette Healy said this week’s trio of close games put her team in the right mindset to beat a quality team like Michigan.
“I really think we had a chip on our shoulder coming into this week with two non-conference games,” said McIntosh. “It was really redeeming, getting these wins.”
The Wolverines, like the Badgers, sustained a series loss against Illinois last weekend, which allowed both Purdue and Nebraska to come within a half game in the Big Ten Standings.
Michigan’s last game was a nine-inning battle on Tuesday with Eastern Michigan that ended with a walk-off home run by freshman pitcher Sara Driesenga secure a 4-2 victory.
Driesenga is the Wolverine’s leading hitter with a .373 average, while Michigan has won its last 18 games against Wisconsin.
The Wolverines also boast the Big Ten leader in both ERA and wins in freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner, who recorded her 25th victory on the season Tuesday.
The Badgers lead Michigan in every major offensive category other than home runs and walks, despite trailing the Wolverines in the standings. With that in mind, Wisconsin has high hopes for this weekend.
“Our confidence is high going in [against Michigan],” McIntosh said after Wednesday’s games. “There’s no pressure on us. Just go in and play Wisconsin softball and we should be fine.”
Peace cites the importance of focusing in practice and avoiding little mistakes as the keys to victory in this weekend’s series.
“We want to play our best softball coming into this weekend,” Peace said. “We want to keep it clean, we want to play as hard as we can and go out proud with what we’ve accomplished.”
The Badgers are one win away from their all-time single season record, with two weekends of play left in the regular season.
The first pitch of Saturday’s “Sign of Summer” doubleheader is set to be thrown at noon, with the first 200 fans receiving a free pair of Badger sunglasses.
Sunday’s game is slated to begin at noon, with a public ice cream social afterwards with the team.