The Wisconsin softball team returns to Big Ten action Saturday and Sunday after splitting its first home series of the season with Green Bay. The Badgers welcome Ohio State (6-6 Big Ten, 27-14 overall) to Goodman Diamond for a three-game series.
UW (7-5, 30-9) eclipsed the 30-win mark for the eighth time in school history Tuesday in a 4-3 comeback win against the Phoenix. With 11 regular-season games left, the Badgers have the opportunity to surpass the school record, set by the 2000 and 2012 teams, for wins in a season (34) before postseason play begins.
Throughout their four years at Wisconsin, the seniors have been forced to adjust to a few changes within the softball program. Senior pitcher Meghan McIntosh knows what it’s like to have a few up-and-down seasons, welcome a new coaching staff and learn a new team philosophy. She talked about the team’s triumphs so far this season and the whirlwind experience her time at UW has been.
“[Thirty wins] means a lot for program history. Just being here freshman year with a different coaching staff and having [head coach Yvette Healy, assistant coach Randy Schneider and assistant coach Tracie Adix] come in and turn the program around is a great accomplishment.”
McIntosh wasn’t the only senior who credited the coaching staff for its hard work, though. Senior infielder Whitney Massey praised Schneider for keeping the Badgers’ bats consistent throughout the year.
“We are constantly changing our approach depending on whoever we’re playing,” Massey said. “We work really tightly with coach Schneider on [our approach at the plate].”
Ohio State comes to Madison riding a six-game win streak and trailing Wisconsin by just two games in the conference standings.
With such a tight race in the Big Ten, this weekend’s three-game set can clearly shake up the conference outlook. Healy spoke about what it means to go up against such an athletically prestigious school like Ohio State.
“Ohio State is a phenomenal program. They’re one of the richest athletic programs in the country,” Healy said. “Every Badger loves to compete against Ohio State in any sport. It’s going to take every ounce of coaching and playing and effort to come out and take these games.”
UW pitchers will look to shut down the Buckeyes’ standout center fielder Taylor Watkins. The sophomore leads all Ohio State batters in batting average (.378), runs (36), hits (51) and on-base-percentage (.456). Junior first baseman Leesa Gresham has also given opponents trouble this season, posting a .354 batting average and a team-leading 13 doubles, nine home runs and a .685 slugging percentage.
The Badgers look forward to taking the field at Goodman Diamond for just the fourth time this season, as they’ve played only two games at home and practiced once outside.
“We’ll have a ton of confidence being at home and in front of our home crowd,” McIntosh said. “Facing [the] adversity [of playing away from home for nine weeks] and then being able to come home and play in front of our home crowd is going to give us a lot of confidence.”
Healy emphasized the team needs to have a sense of urgency as it moves into its last stretch of conference games.
“We’re trying to get back to the basics, back to the fundamentals to try and put together some quality innings,” Healy said. “The team is excited that we’ve been playing well, but we’ve got to get our focus back to taking it one inning at a time to play better ball [going forward].”
Wisconsin meets the Buckeyes at Goodman Diamond for a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday and finishes off the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.