Though the UW softball team fell short of breaking into the Top 25 this week, the team still received a vote of confidence via an invitation to the National Fastpitch Leadoff Classic.
“This weekend could be a big weekend for us,” head coach Karen Gallagher said. “Almost everyone down there was ranked at some point or was in the NCAAs. I think wins against top 25 teams are very important to break into the top 25. You do well there and you should break the top 25.”
This exclusive tournament invites 24 of the nation’s top teams to Columbus, Ga., for an intense weekend of competition. Teams are split up into six pools, and after pool play the top teams in each pool and two at-large teams advance to the gold championship bracket. The rest of the teams are split up into the silver and bronze championship brackets.
“I think this will probably be our hardest tournament of the season,” co-captain Meghann Reiss said. “Most of these teams made the NCAA regionals. This will be a true test of how strong we are coming off last weekend’s wins.”
In pool play, the Badgers will face No.18 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and Utah. The Badgers are counting on all teams in their pool to provide tough competition.
“I don’t think we can underestimate any team,” Reiss said. “Alabama is a good team, Oklahoma won the World Series two years ago and we have had some strong showings against Utah. If we let our guard down, we know that all these other teams are coming after us because they know we beat the No. 1 team in the nation.”
The team is excited, but still seems to have a few concerns about hitting going into this weekend.
“I think that our bats need to wake up a little bit, and that we need to get some more hits, and we need to get some more runs for our pitching staff,” Reiss said. “We need to not be shut out any more.”
Coach Gallagher seemed to agree with her captain’s analysis of the team’s hitting strength.
“We have to hit the ball better this weekend,” said coach Gallagher. “We have the pitching, but I would like to see a little more consistency at the plate for us and have the team score more runs.”
Overall, the Badgers seem fired up to play and show the country why they were able to beat the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I think we are extremely excited to go to the tournament this weekend because it is invite only and we have never been invited before,” Reiss said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”