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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers looking to derail Boilermakers in weekend series

Wisconsin currently has the second best offense in the Big Ten behind Purdue, with a team batting average of .306. Whitney Massey has played a big part of that with 43 hits.[/media-credit]

The University of Wisconsin has fielded a softball team for 16 years and has never been able to finish in the top three of the Big Ten. Plenty of seasons have passed by with Wisconsin closing play at or near the bottom of the conference.

However, head coach Yvette Healy has brought in a new breed of Badgers, and has Wisconsin (29-13, 11-4 Big Ten) sitting pretty at second in the conference, trailing Michigan by just one game. The Badgers will get the chance to improve their standing this weekend as they travel to West Lafayette to face Purdue (28-16, 10-4 Big Ten).

Coming off a 7-11 Big Ten season in 2011, the early success has come at somewhat of a surprise to the Badgers.


“When you play within yourself, sometimes you don’t really notice how good you are,” junior second baseman Whitney Massey said. “All of a sudden, it’s starting to hit me that we’re talking about the schools we need to beat these final few weeks.”

Beating Purdue may not be as easy as it was to sweep Penn State just last weekend. The Boilermakers currently reside in third place, trailing the Badgers by just a half game entering the weekend.

With three games on tap and Michigan facing Illinois this weekend, there could easily be a shuffling at the top of the conference standings by Sunday night.

Wisconsin is likely facing Purdue at the perfect time, as the Boilermakers have lost three out of their last four. Two of those losses came at the hands of the aforementioned Illinois team that will look to do the same this weekend against the Wolverines.

The Badgers have won eight of their last nine Big Ten games, but travelling on the road to face Purdue is about as daunting as they come.

If the Boilermakers do anything well, it’s hitting the ball. Purdue entered the week with a batting average of .325, by far the best mark in the Big Ten and good enough for 8th best in the nation.

Purdue is led offensively by outfielder Andie Varsho and first baseman Ashley Courtney, each posting an average of at least .375. Lindsey Rains and Molly Garst follow closely after, batting .364 and .357, respectively.

In order to combat Purdue’s astounding offense, the Badgers will likely hand over a significant load of the pitching to sophomore Cassandra Darrah.

Darrah has once again proven the Badgers ace on the mound, racking up a record of 19-7. Through the month of April, the sophomore has been one of the Big Ten’s hottest pitchers, winning 10 of her last 11 decisions while also being named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week twice.

Her streak of consistency on the mound not only keeps opponents off the scoreboard, but sparks the Badger offense as well.

“She’s a really good pitcher, and when you have that with her, it kind of gives you confidence in all areas,” third baseman Shannel Blackshear said. “It takes a lot of pressure off us as hitters and lets us relax a little more.”

If relaxation is the key to the Badger offense, the team has been as chill as they come lately. In its last seven Big Ten affairs, Wisconsin has scored just under eight runs per game, the best in the conference over that stretch.

The hot Badger bats will likely be facing a heavy dose of Boilermaker pitcher Lexy Moore throughout the weekend. Moore is the clear-cut ace, matching Darrah with her own record of 19-7. While the matchup provokes signs of pitching duels, Moore allows opponents to hit for an average of .284 – 31 points higher than Darrah.

With a battle of the conference’s two best offenses, this weekend’s series will serve as a testing ground for both hitters and pitchers alike.

“We’re in second place and they’re right behind us,” Blackshear said. “Purdue is a very good team so it is definitely a pretty important series.”

The Badgers’ offense has shown the ability to score when it most direly needs to. Wisconsin scored in bunches Wednesday night against Indiana State – 17 runs scattered across six innings – but doing so against a Big Ten opponent may prove to be much more difficult.

In this sense, clutch hitting takes on an entirely new level of importance.

“The biggest thing will be getting the big hits,” Blackshear said. “We do a pretty good job of getting runners on base. We just need to keep getting the hits to bring them in.”

With only three weekends of Big Ten play remaining, each series multiplies in significance. With a three game series at home and first-place Michigan a week away, the Badgers will need to take care of business on the road if they hope to be in a position to take first place in the conference standings.

In just her second season as head coach, with thoughts of the Big Ten championship beginning to arise, Healy continues to stress concentration on each element of softball.

“We just have to keep the team focused,” Healy explained. “As we go down the home stretch, understanding that every inning, and every pitch, and every at-bat counts will be the message as we finish up.”

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