Wisconsin (26-21, 6-10) looks to avoid a letdown when it hosts Green Bay (20-21, 7-13) at Goodman Diamond Wednesday in the final doubleheader of the season. The Badgers hope to finish their last non-conference series on a strong note, as the Phoenix have been a pesky foe in recent history. The two teams have split the series the last two years.
The Badgers will face a large drop off in opponent depth as the team comes off a rough weekend series against Michigan, a team ranked second in the country. Head coach Yvette Healy recognizes the danger of a letdown game after facing such an elite team like Michigan.
“I’ve seen letdowns hundreds of times,” Healy said. “I’ve coached at the mid-major level and we made a living off of catching teams when they weren’t expecting it. We really talked to the team about being up for this game. If we can get them excited and hungry for one more mid-week series, we’re going to be really proud.”
Wisconsin will look to their young rotation on the mound to spearhead the effort against Green Bay. The Badgers’ pitching staff has looked solid of late with freshman Cassandra Darrah looking terrific for the Badgers on the mound against Michigan, holding the potent Wolverine offense to one run Sunday. Fellow Wisconsin freshman Amanda Najdek has also been consistent, posting an ERA of only 2.00 in her last 59 innings of work.
“It’s all about pitching,” Healy said. “When we’ve pitched well it’s set the tone and given us more time to score runs. If the pitchers can do their jobs and really attack hitters and keep the score down, I think it will give the offense time to work.”
Wisconsin’s offense will look to revitalize its bats facing a weaker Green Bay pitching staff after a string of frustrating games against Michigan. However, the Badgers reaped the benefits of experience this past weekend as their young lineup faced an All-American and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in the Wolverines’ Jordan Taylor.
“A big positive from last weekend was that we made adjustments off of Taylor,” freshman Mary Massei said. “I think we did a really great job staying strong on Sunday after a hard loss on Saturday.”
“We’ll have to make sure we focus like we’re playing the same great Michigan team,” senior Jennifer Krueger said. “If we play with the same intensity and focus we had this weekend we should be fine. We’ll have to make some adjustments to the Green Bay pitcher because she’s not Taylor, so we’ll be focusing on making the adjustments early to get into a offensive groove.”
Wisconsin hopes to receive a big contribution from Krueger, who has continued to be a bright spot for the Badgers in her senior campaign. The Portage native was named Big Ten Player of the Week after recording seven hits in 11 at-bats for the Badgers. After starting the conference season slowly at the plate, Krueger has responded with nabbing the first Player of the Week honors for Wisconsin since 2007.
“I was pretty excited,” Krueger said. “I had no idea it was coming until I was texted about it. I’ve been trying to win it my whole career, so it’s a nice accomplishment.”
Green Bay has talented players, including junior Alli Rivera. Rivera boasts a .325 batting average for a Phoenix offense that holds a team batting average of close to .250. The Phoenix will most likely send senior Katie Cooney to the mound. The jack-of-all-trades pitcher was named First-Team All-Horizon League last year, as Cooney not only pitches for the Phoenix but also plays every game she’s not on the mound in the field.
“Pitching-wise, Cooney does a good job for them,” Healy said. “Dani Peerenboom is a hitter for them who doesn’t have huge numbers this year, but she’s a really good player. I saw her hit the ball a ton last year when I was coaching at Loyola. They’re a scrappy, well-coached team and you can’t take them for granted. We’ll have to play a good game to beat them.”
To Wisconsin players like Massei, playing great softball in the upcoming doubleheader is just as important as it was in the Michigan series.
“I think every game’s important for the team,” Massei said. “We want to finish these last six games as strong as we can. We’re just staying together as a team and keeping our mind focused on these games at all times.”