The Wisconsin softball team (14-3 overall) will return to the Midwest for the first time this season when the Badgers take on Belmont (6-7), Eastern Kentucky (9-5), Illinois-Chicago (3-12) and the host team, Southern Illinois (9-8), at the SalSaluki Invitational in Carbondale, Ill., this weekend.
Saturday will mark the Badgers’ first game out of the warm climate, having played in North Carolina, Florida and California in 2013.
“Moving back to the Midwest, we will have to adjust to the weather,” said head coach Yvette Healy. “I’m really pleased on how we’ve been able to adjust to travel so far.”
Wisconsin, who has been hot at the plate, will look to continue that trend in Carbondale this weekend. Junior outfielder Mary Massei leads UW with a .492 batting average and 19 RBI.
“I think just working extra with my teammates has given me a lot of that edge,” Massei said. “We talk about situations, we talk about pitches and what to expect they will be throwing us.”
As for Wisconsin’s defense, pitching has been key this season: The Badgers have recorded almost as many strikeouts (101) as they have given up hits (102).
“We have a great pitching coach,” said freshman pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart. “We’ve got a bunch of hardworking pitchers, and I think we are all on the same track as to where we want to go.”
Wisconsin will kick start the action Saturday at 10 a.m. against Belmont, who is led by sophomore outfielder Kat Hollingsworth. The Carrollton, Texas native is currently batting .422 with 12 RBI.
The Badgers’ second game Saturday against Southern Illinois may be the most important of the invitational.
“[The Salukis] are an NCAA tournament team and they get in a lot,” commented Healy. “Any time you’re playing the home team on their home field, you know that’s going to be the toughest game of the weekend.”
The Salukis are currently 2-0 at home and will look to continue their win streak on Saturday.
The third and fourth games of the weekend will be played against University of Illinois-Chicago and Eastern Kentucky Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.
Illinois-Chicago is currently sailing well below the .500 line, losing to other Big Ten teams Nebraska and Michigan State along the way. The Badgers’ matchup against UIC will be a good measuring stick for UW to see how well it matches up against those teams they will see during conference play.
Wisconsin has a diverse lineup of teams ahead of them this weekend. To continue their hot streak, UW has to continue its play displayed so far this season.
“I think we’re doing pretty well so far—I mean, we have a good head on our shoulders,” said Massei. “We’re working hard every day at practice and we know our goals we have set for us—we’re working hard every day to achieve them.”