It’s that time of the season. Games are becoming fewer and thoughts of postseason are entering the minds of players, coaches and fans alike.
For the Wisconsin softball team, there are only 17 games left in the regular season and 10 home games left. Next on the list, is a date with the Purdue Boilermakers (16-27, 5-6 Big Ten) this weekend in West Lafayette.
Despite owning a non-conference record of 21-2, the Badgers (25-7, 4-5 Big Ten) have dropped under .500 since Big Ten play began.
A series win over Northwestern and Iowa accounted for the four wins, but a series sweep against Nebraska has put Wisconsin in ninth place in the Big Ten standings. To qualify for the Big Ten tournament, a team must finish in the top 12.
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The Badgers will have a chance to gain some ground in the Big Ten with Purdue owning a slight lead over Wisconsin. And the Badgers might be catching Purdue at the right time. The Boilermakers have dropped six of their last seven contests.
In their slump, Purdue has been outscored 41-15, allowing less than 5 runs only two times with Boilermaker bats only scoring more than 5 runs once.
It is no secret Badger pitching has had a little trouble since the beginning of Big Ten play. During non-conference play, over a 23 game span, Wisconsin surrendered a total of 48 runs. In the nine Big Ten games, Wisconsin pitching has allowed 45 runs.
But there is no denying the pitching duo of Kaitlyn Menz and Kirsten Stevens still delivers quality starts time and time again. The two average a 1.95 ERA and combine for all but one of Wisconsin’s wins and should be able to take advantage of a weak hitting Purdue team that ranks 12 in the Big Ten.
To win another series, the Badgers will look to clean up their fielding which ranks 12 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s 15 errors in conference play are tied for the most among Big Ten teams. The other team owning 15 errors: Purdue.
If the Badgers can keep the fielding gaffes to a minimum, they should be able to take advantage of a weak fielding Purdue team.
Menz and Stevens can afford to surrender a few runs once in a while when they have a strong trio leading a powerful lineup. In the entire season, the Badgers first three hitters, Kelsey Jenkins, Chloe Miller and Brooke Wyderski, all rank in the top 15 for Big Ten hitters, with Miller leading the entire conference.
Look for the Wisconsin bats to come alive beyond the top three hitters. Purdue pitchers, Kaitlynn Moody and Maddie Damon, have an average ERA of 3.52. Opposing hitters have a batting average of .284 against the Boilermakers’ two pitchers.
The first game of the weekend will take place on Friday at 5 p.m. The following day will be a double header with start times of 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. All times are central.