It is getting to be that time of the season for the University of Wisconsin Badgers softball team. They piled the wins on early, then hit a rough patch at the beginning of Big Ten conference play. Now the Badgers (27-8, 6-6 Big Ten), who sit at seventh in the Big Ten standings, will have arguably their toughest matchup of the season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a double header competition Wednesday in Madison.
Wisconsin will play host to a Minnesota team that has been nearly unbeatable all year. Sitting at a 38-3 record overall and a 10-1 conference record, the Gophers have essentially ensured a ticket to the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers will have to play near-perfect softball if they want to knock off the fifth-ranked team in the nation and leads the Big Ten in hitting and pitching and whose average margin of victory is over six runs.
For pitching, Minnesota sends out their ace, Sara Groenewegen, who owns a 19-2 record with an ERA of .63. In 22 appearances, Groenewegen has surrendered 11 runs. Up next, they have Amber Fiser who has an 8-0 record and a 1.39 ERA.
If a team can manage to score enough runs against Minnesota’s staff, who has only surrendered six runs three times, they still have to shut down the lineup that possesses a .345 batting average and has four players in the top 15 in the Big Ten.
Infielder, Makenna Partain, has the highest team batting average with .413, but catcher, Kendyl Lindaman, bats .408 and has 14 home runs.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, they have the best hitter in the Big Ten in Chloe Miller and two starting pitchers in Kaitlyn Menz and Kirsten Stevens that account for all but one of the team’s wins and have an average ERA of 1.99.
Wisconsin will need maximum production from their top five hitters, Kelsey Jenkins, Miller, Brooke Wyderski, Sara Novak and Stephanie Lombardo. Those four hitters average a .365 batting average and combine for 155 RBIs.
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The Badgers are not a team that is going to win with the long ball, but Miller, Jenkins and Wyderksi, who rank in the top 15 in the Big Ten for on base percentage, are always creating scoring opportunities. Being the first on the board will be important as the Badgers are 21-4 when scoring the game’s first runs.
Menz and Stevens will also need to keep Wisconsin in the game and not dig too deep of a hole. The Badgers’ pitching staff pitches for contact ranking only eighth for strikeouts in the Big Ten, which means there will be no room for error in the field for a Wisconsin team that averages 1.4 errors a game.
The first game of the doubleheader will start at 1 p.m. at Goodman Diamond with the second game following shortly after the conclusion of the first.