When a team finds itself scouting the Badgers this season, one stat in particular may stick out.
The Badgers have not one, not two, but six players batting over .300.
With a team offense ranked second in the conference and 34th in the country with a collective batting average of .302, the Wisconsin softball team is terrorizing opponents. Through its last 14 games, Wisconsin is 13-1 while producing an average of seven runs per game.
“This team is unique to me,” senior Karla Powell said. “I’ve never been a part of an offense like this since my traveling team days.”
Currently leading the Badgers on offense is sophomore first baseman Michelle Mueller, who has come out of nowhere in the last two weeks of the season to lead the team with a .357 batting average, currently 13th best in the conference.
What’s perhaps even more astonishing is that Mueller is currently batting .475 against Big Ten opponents, trailed closely by outfielder Kendall Grimm (.471 average in conference play). These two players are just two of eight Badger players with a batting average over .300 in Big Ten games.
“The momentum we get offensively is just crazy,” Mueller said. “Having all our team almost above .300 is unreal. It’s nice knowing that all of us are putting in the time and that’s why we’re doing so well. The coaches push us to do extra stuff every day and it really helps out.”
What’s even more startling is the fact that the Badgers have potentially three other players who could reach the .300 mark this season. Shannel Blackshear, the team’s junior third baseman, is almost there, with an average of .294 overall and .310 in conference play.
Powell, the Badgers only First Team All-Big Ten player from a year ago – a season where she batted .313 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs – has been limited in her role offensively due to injuries. However, last weekend the lone senior made a start in the Badgers’ final game of its series with the Nittany Lions and looked to be well on the road to a full recovery.
Rounding out the list of potential .300 hitters is junior Molly Spence. Spence, who did not play the entire 2011 season due to injury, is currently battling another injury setback and has not appeared in the Wisconsin lineup since April 4 against Loyola-Chicago.
The season looked promising for Spence, a player who as a freshman in 2010 batted .347 with eight long balls and 41 RBIs on her way to being named Wisconsin’s offensive MVP. Before her injury this season, Spence had an average of .263 while amassing seven home runs and 23 RBIs.
With Spence slated to eventually return in the upcoming weeks, Wisconsin could have an entire batting order made up of players who are currently batting or have, at some point in their career, batted .300.
“This is definitely special,” head coach Yvette Healy said. “As a coaching staff we realize from being in the game and being around Division I sports and coaching at this level that it takes a lot to put it all together … We know they still have plenty of room to get even better.”
The Badgers have found their offensive success against not pushover pitchers, but some of the best in all of college softball. Already Wisconsin has faced four pitchers that rank in the NCAA top 50 in earned run average.
Perhaps highlighting that success against great pitching was the team’s absolute dismantling of Minnesota’s Sara Moulton – a pitcher who has an ERA of 1.26, 17th best in the nation. In Moulton’s three appearances against the Badgers, the Gopher sophomore suffered three losses, giving up 18 hits and 10 runs in 12.2 innings of work.
The Badgers’ offense has also made it clear to opponents that they are always a threat to come back, mounting the two largest comeback victories in program history this season. With comeback wins from eight run and seven run deficits, respectively, the bats are never at ease for this Wisconsin team.
With a current RPI of 47 – second best in the conference behind Michigan – the Badgers are in perfect position to make their first NCAA tournament since 2005. While the Badgers currently sit at second place in the Big Ten – trailing first place Michigan by just a single game – the next few weeks will truly test if this offensive dominance can last.
Wisconsin has upcoming series with Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska – the top three teams in the Big Ten besides Wisconsin – giving Healy and her players an exciting chance to show all of college softball that this offense, and team, is for real.
“Our schedule’s tough down the stretch but it’s actually what we need,” Healy said. “If we want to keep having a chance for the postseason you have to match up with those best teams to have your chance. If we can battle and come out on top of those series then we’ll earn it.”
“We’re just having fun,” sophomore Mary Massei said. “I can’t wait to get after it in these next couple weeks. It’s going to be tough for us but we’re going to work hard, prepare and hopefully get it done.”