The Wisconsin softball team travels to Charlotte, N.C., Friday, where it will participate in the First Pitch Classic to open up its season. The University of North Carolina-Charlotte will host the weekend’s festivities at D.L. Phillips Softball Complex.
The Badgers are looking to carry the success they enjoyed in 2012 into the start of their 2013 campaign. Last year’s team tallied a school-record 34 wins while capturing the most Big Ten wins (13) in school history. On top of making history in the win column, the 2012 squad also broke school records in batting average (.300), on-base percentage (.385), slugging percentage (.426), runs (272), doubles (73), and RBI (230).
After just nearly missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the Badgers return nine position starters and all three pitchers while bringing in eight new players.
Senior second baseman Whitney Massey spearheads the infield after batting a team-leading .358 in 2012 with 58 hits and 22 doubles. Massey led the country in doubles per game (.42) and was named to the NFCA All-Great Lakes Region first team and All-Big Ten first team.
The outfield is led by sophomore Maria Van Abel, who tallied 45 hits and 17 stolen bases while batting .354 last year. Van Abel is a 2012 Coaches Award winner and looks to climb closer to the top of UW’s all-time base stealing list this season, where she currently sits at No. 10.
Wisconsin will face off against UNC-Charlotte Friday—a team the Badgers have never played. The 49ers finished last season with a record of 29-29 and return seven starters and two starting pitchers.
UW takes the field later Friday afternoon against another team the program has never played—the Presbyterian College Blue Hose. Although the team finished last season 13 games under .500 (20-33), the Badgers will not be able to underestimate a team who returns seven starters, including 2012 Big South All-Conference selection Tera Powell. The senior outfielder recorded 50 hits in 2012 en route to a .284 batting average.
The Badgers open up their Saturday contests with a tough matchup against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish sit just outside of the NCAA pre-season top 25 with 43 votes. The Fighting Irish finished 2012 with an impressive 43-16 record, losing to Arizona in the NCAA Tucson Regional.
Wisconsin takes the diamond against Presbyterian in its second game Saturday before finishing the weekend on Sunday with another duel against Notre Dame.