This weekend’s games could be the most important games the Badgers will play all season. The Big Ten is close enough that one loss or one win could move a team up or down significantly in the rankings.
Ohio State (13-3) is currently in first place, Michigan (10-3) is in second place, Iowa (9-4) is narrowly holding down third place, Northwestern (9-5) is in fourth place and Wisconsin (7-5) is tied with Minnesota (7-5) for fifth place. Only the top six teams in the conference make it to the Big Ten Tournament, and only a few more losses could knock the Badgers out of the top six.
However, this weekend the Badgers have a chance to directly control their destiny by playing Iowa Friday and Saturday and Northwestern twice Sunday. Four wins this weekend could clinch a Big Ten playoff berth and allow the team to gain valuable ground in the standings.
The Badgers come into the weekend fresh off a 4-1 win and a 5-4 loss to UW-Green Bay this past Tuesday. Leading the team offensively in the double-header was sophomore Michelle Skarr, who went three for six at the plate with three runs batted in and a homerun.
With the competitive weekend coming up, the team knows it must lift its level of play to put itself in position to be successful.
First up for the Badgers will be the Iowa Hawkeyes (31-16 overall). The team’s only losses in conference have come to Ohio State 2-0 and 3-1 (9 innings), Penn State 9-3 and Michigan 11-1.
The Hawkeyes bring many weapons at the plate to Madison. Leading the team offensively will be junior catcher Jessica Bashor and senior first baseman Alicia Gerlach, with .356 and .354 battling averages respectively. Junior shortstop Kristin Johnson leads the team with 51 hits, and sophomore second baseman Christina Schmaltz leads the team with 40 RBIs.
Taking the mound for the Hawkeyes will be freshman Lisa Birocci, 8-4 with a 1.64 ERA, and senior Kristi Hanks, 15-11 with a 1.70 ERA.
Iowa comes to Madison after winning six of its last eight games. The last time the Hawkeyes were on the diamond was April 24 for a double-header against Northern Iowa. The team won the first game 8-0 in five innings and the second game 9-1 in six innings.
After the conclusion of the Iowa series the Badgers will be facing a scrappy, yet tough Northwestern team (21-14-1). The Wildcats have lost to many of the same teams in the Big Ten that the Hawkeyes have lost to?Illinois 5-4, twice to Ohio State 3-1 and 12-4, Penn St. 9-3 and Michigan 11-1.
Sophomore infielder Carri Leto and senior outfielder Erin Jancic lead NW offensively, both with a .345 batting average. Leto has 40 hits and 29 RBIs on the season, and Jancic has 41 hits.
NW has two veteran pitchers controlling the mound in juniors Lauren Schwendimann and Brie Brown. Schwendimann is 14-4 with an ERA of 2.74, and Brown is 7-10 with a 4.27 ERA.
The Wildcats, having some of the same luck the Badgers have had with weather, were scheduled to play a double-header against Loyola April 24, but the game was cancelled due to the poor conditions. April 21 was the most recent date the Wildcats took the field; they won both games against Michigan State 8-0 and 7-3.
In the wild and crazy Big Ten, anything can happen. This weekend will be no exception, as four of the top six teams will go head to head to try to secure their postseasons.