As February winds down, 16 games remain until Big Ten play begins for the University of Wisconsin softball team. For these next 16 contests, Wisconsin (8-1), who lost their first game of the season last weekend after starting 7-0, will travel to Florida, Texas, Colorado and Kentucky.
This weekend features five games for the Badgers in Fort Meyers, Florida, for the Sheraton Invitational. They will play the Florida International University Panthers (8-3), the Boston College Eagles (7-3), Florida Gulf Coast University (5-4), the Hofstra University Pride (2-3) and the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights (0-4).
This invitational could provide a chance for Wisconsin to build a resume and prove they are the real deal with three of their five opponents over .500.
Facing FIU will test the Badgers’ pitching. The Panthers have scored at least four runs in six of their 11 games and at least 10 runs in three of their games.
FIU outscores their opponents 61-22 and has only been shut out once against then-No. 1 Florida. Their pitchers average a 2.28 ERA and have recorded three shutouts. The Badgers and the Panthers will square off Feb. 24 at 8 a.m. CT.
Later that day, Wisconsin will face the ACC’s Boston College, another team that can put runs on the board. The Eagles have scored at least 6 runs in half of their games. But the Eagles’ bats have gone cold the last five games, only averaging 2.6 runs during a loss to Drake, a team the Badgers defeated earlier this season.
Boston College has faced two ranked opponents in No. 7 Arizona and No. 21 Arizona State. The Eagles were handed the loss against Arizona by a score of 12-2 but bested Arizona State 3-2. Wisconsin and Boston College will take the field at 12:30 p.m. CT.
The Feb. 25 double-header will kick off against Florida Gulf Coast at 12:30 p.m. CT. With FGCU being a streaky team this season, the Badgers might catch them at a good time. The Eagles started the season with a five-game winning streak that included 36 runs compared to their opponents’ four, three shutouts and a 4-3 win against then-No. 21 Fresno State. Since then, FGCU has lost four in a row, been outscored 29-12 and were on the losing side of a 9-0 thrashing against Fresno State.
That evening, Wisconsin will face a familiar foe in Hofstra. Last weekend, the Badgers fended off the Pride’s rally to take the game 7-5. Both teams have played No. 25 South Florida, who was ranked 20th at the time. The Badgers won their game 3-1 while Hofstra lost theirs 7-5.
The Pride’s only two wins came against Saint Joseph’s and Binghamton, two teams Wisconsin beat last weekend. The Badgers should be able to take advantage of a Hofstra pitching staff that has surrendered an average of 5.4 runs per game. First pitch is at 5 p.m. CT.
Finally, Wisconsin will finish the weekend against fellow Big Ten team Rutgers Feb. 26. The Scarlet Knights will be looking for their first win of the season after weather prevented them from traveling to their first tournament and they then dropped four in a row to Northern Illinois and Ohio State the following weekend. Rutgers finished 12th in the Big Ten last season and have not faced the Badgers since 2015, when Wisconsin won the season series 2-1. The game starts at 9 a.m. CT.