The University of Wisconsin softball team will have little time to regroup from its disappointing weekend against Michigan State, as North Dakota State rolls into town Monday for a doubleheader, with the first game beginning at 3 p.m..
The Badgers will look to recover from their current tailspin, during which they have lost eight of their last nine, against a team that is in a free fall of its own, as North Dakota State has lost 11 of its past 14.
The Bison are playing their first season in Division-I, after making the jump from Division-II, where they were one of the top teams in the country. North Dakota State is very much a mystery because of its new status, as it is currently one of only seven independent teams with no conference affiliation. While the Bison search for a conference to join (most likely the Big Sky, whom they are in negotiations with) they have played admirably, accumulating a record of 17-20, despite playing a grueling schedule.
North Dakota State, while at the same time trying to adjust to the level of play in D-I, has scheduled some of the top teams in the country, including No. 15 Missouri, No. 23 Iowa and formerly ranked Nebraska. The true strength of the schedule lies in the locations, however. The Bison will play only three series at home all season, amounting to six games of their 55 game schedule.
North Dakota State will continue its tour of the American Midwest with the trip to Madison, bringing with it one of the top fielding crews in the country. North Dakota has posted a fielding percentage of .971, while committing only 29 errors, both among the nation’s best.
Conversely, Wisconsin has a fielding percentage of only .945 and has committed an alarming 59 errors, both second worst in the Big Ten.
“We have to field the ball,” head coach Karen Gallagher said. “You obviously give up a little defense sometimes if a player carries a good bat, but you hope that people step up their games. You can anticipate, plan and have high expectations, but the players have to perform [defensively]. They need to be focused and on their game.”
The Bison have also been effective on the mound, maintaining a 2.25 team ERA this season. Wisconsin will likely see Allison Bakke, who has started 21 games this season, completing an impressive 15. She has compiled an 8-13 record to go along with an ERA of 2.45, while limiting opponents to a batting average of only .234. Junior right-hander Amber Garrett has not seen as much time this season (with just under 58 innings pitched), but has posted the most impressive pitching stats on the team. Garrett has an ERA of only 1.21 and, opponents have hit just .194 against her.
The Bison have struggled offensively, however, as they do not have an everyday player hitting .300, and are batting just .239 as a team. The most dangerous player in the lineup is Lynnae Foshag, who is hitting .281 with three home runs (the Bison have hit only four all season) and 15 RBI. North Dakota State does possess quality speed, having stolen 53 bases this season, while being caught only 13 times.
Wisconsin is not particularly worried about the strengths and weaknesses of North Dakota State, and are much more concerned with its own weaknesses and trying to correct them.
“We are just too Jeckyl and Hyde right now,” Gallagher said. “We just need some consistency. We are hoping we can turn things around a little bit. It is a new day on Monday, and we have been though this enough. We have to be tired of riding the roller coaster and just start going out there and kicking butt.”