Winter is winding down, which can only mean one thing, the start of the Badgers softball season is among us.
After the most successful season in program history, the softball team is getting ready to take the field for their first tournament of the season, the “First Pitch Classic,” in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The tournament will feature the host team, Charlotte, as well as Notre Dame and Presbyterian.
Head coach Yvette Healy wants to see the team’s strength right away, despite the fact her group hasn’t had a single practice outdoors this season on an actual diamond.
“We want to see their aggressiveness,” said Healy. “I think the first time out, we haven’t been on the dirt so that’s going to be a hard thing when you go out there and you haven’t taken one ground ball.”
Healy made a point of emphasizing she does not want to see a slow start from her team this year. The second year head coach wants them to come out, be aggressive and send a message to the NCAA after being skipped over for an at-large bid for the tournament in 2012.
With every starter returning from last year’s record-setting squad, expectations are higher than ever that Wisconsin will finally make their first postseason appearance since 2005 and compete for the program’s first-ever conference crown.
The Badgers ended last season tied for sixth in the Big Ten conference, the second straight year the team accomplished the feat under Healy.
Highlighting last year’s returns are a couple All-Big Ten players such as senior utility player Whitney Massey, senior outfielder Kendall Grimm and junior pitcher Cassandra Darrah.
“The goal is to win the Big Ten and make it to the NCAA tournament” said Healy.
“If we play our game, one game at a time in the Big Ten we want to go after every single opponent, so our goal is one weekend at a time to win every series in the Big Ten.”
The Badgers have to face a much tougher schedule than they did last year with games against No. 18 Louisville, No. 26 Notre Dame, No. 3 California and No. 21 Stanford. But, even though their schedule is much tougher this season, their confidence has never seemed higher.
“I feel like were still under the radar, so I thinks it’s going to prove that we are a force to be reckon with,” said senior captain Shannel Blackshear.
“We are set up really well to do well in the Big Ten and to win it and that’s our goal going into it. We have a really talented team and I think that it’s going too big to come out this weekend and show it.”