The Wisconsin Badgers (23-11 overall, 8-4 in-conference) will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers (33-9, 13-0) for three games at the Goodman Diamond in Madison this weekend.
Wisconsin, coming off its sweep of Michigan State, will have its hands full with a Nebraska team riding an 18-game winning streak. The Cornhuskers’ red-hot offense has scored at least five runs in nine consecutive games, most recently totaling 29 runs in a three-game sweep of Minnesota.
Nebraska’s lineup is full of heavy hitters, as five players are hitting over .330 with an OPS over 1.000. As a team, the Cornhuskers lead the Big Ten in batting average, runs, home runs and on-base percentage, to name a few offensive categories. Their power doesn’t come at the expense of plate discipline, though, as they lead the conference in both slugging (.572) and walks (152).
Sophomore leadoff hitter Billie Andrews leads the team in on base percentage (.473), home runs (18), walks (31) and RBI (45). Andrews is also a threat on the bases, having stolen 14 bags in 15 attempts. The shortstop’s blend of speed, power and patience make her an elite leadoff hitter who Wisconsin must pitch to with extreme caution.
Cam Ybarra and Sydney Gray follow Andrews in Nebraska’s lineup. The infielders have hit eight and nine home runs, respectively, and both boast an OPS over 1.000. Junior transfer and cleanup hitter Mya Felder leads Nebraska with a .411 batting average. She’s also tallied four home runs, six doubles and 29 RBI.
Such a formidable lineup has made the Cornhuskers a top offense not only in the conference, but in the country. Maddie Schwartz and her fellow Badger pitchers will face their toughest test to date in 2022.
Nebraska also has stellar pitching, thanks to Olivia Ferrell and Courtney Wallace. Ferrell, through 26 games and 127 innings, has a 17-4 record and an ERA of just 1.82. She has struck out 131 batters while walking 49. Right behind her, Wallace has appeared in 24 games with a 3.50 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 110 innings.
Wisconsin’s lineup is up to the task with the duo of Kayla Konwent and Ally Miklesh. The two have proven themselves to be hard outs, both hitting above .400 with on-base percentages over .500.
Miklesh is coming off a 5-for-9, six-RBI series versus Michigan State. She has also proven she isn’t afraid to steal a base, as she has swiped ten bags in 12 attempts.
Konwent, meanwhile, has displayed excellent power with eight home runs and a slugging percentage of .796, which is good for fourth in the conference. Her .452 batting average leads the Big Ten. Although not a base-stealing threat, Konwent rivals Nebraska’s Andrews as one of the country’s top leadoff hitters.
Once again, the Badgers figure to lean heavily on ace pitcher Maddie Schwartz this weekend. The senior has pitched 125.2 of Wisconsin’s 227 innings this season while posting a 2.45 ERA, 93 strikeouts and an 18-5 record.
It’s become clear that Wisconsin’s best pitching plan for a three-game series involves Schwartz and junior Tessa Magnanimo. Schwartz will likely pitch all of Friday and Sunday’s games while splitting Saturday’s with Magnanimo, who has a 2.04 ERA in 34.1 innings across 15 appearances (two starts).
Wisconsin’s third pitcher, if needed, will be sophomore Ava Justman. The lefty, with a modest 3.88 ERA through 61.1 innings, may only appear this weekend if Schwartz struggles and fails to provide her usual length.
The Badgers are playing with confidence as they brace for a matchup with the Big Ten’s best team. Though Nebraska fields a deeper lineup and more impressive power, Wisconsin has a core group which, at its best, is capable of beating anybody.
Game 1 is 5 p.m. Friday at the Goodman Softball Complex, with Games 2 and 3 following at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.