Wisconsin kicks off Big Ten play against pitching-heavy Purdue

Wisconsin (13-13 overall) will look to carry the momentum from last weekend’s strong four-win performance into Big Ten play. The Badgers begin their conference season in a three-game series at Purdue (19-9) this weekend.

The pitching for the Badgers improved over the last two tournaments, holding opponents to three or fewer runs in all but one game. Freshman pitcher Mariah Watts has had a great deal to do with that. She has come on strong near the end of non-conference play, winning four games for Wisconsin in the last two tournaments and lowering her ERA to 2.64.

Wisconsin’s pitching could take advantage of a Purdue offense that has been mediocre this season, ranking 11th in runs scored per game. They average 4.65 runs per game, which is just higher than Wisconsin’s 4.50 runs per game.

The two offenses are similar in more than just run production, having similar batting averages and a player who has anchored the offense. For the Badgers, that player is senior outfielder Maria Van Abel, while Purdue features senior infielder Ashley Burkhardt. Both players lead their teams in batting average, hits and runs scored.

That being said, the strongest part of Purdue’s team is their pitching staff led by junior Lilly Fecho. She has allowed only 22 runs in 16 starts for the Boilermakers. Fecho is not alone, as freshman Gina Snyder and senior Lexy Moore also sport ERAs under 2.50. This strong pitching staff will create a lot of difficulties for a Wisconsin offense that has picked up as of late. Even though the production of the offense for the Badgers has picked up it is very possible that they will struggle against what is a good pitching staff.

First pitch Friday, Mar. 20 is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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