For the sixth time in 20 years, the University of Wisconsin women’s softball team has earned a spot in the 2017 NCAA women’s College World Series.
The Badgers (33-15, 11-11 Big Ten) were awarded one of the non-ranked spots by the NCAA committee this year and were one of five Big Ten teams invited to participate in this year’s tournament. The University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and the University of Illinois are among some of the teams hoping to hoist that national trophy for the Big Ten.
This year’s selection, specifically the tournament locations, sparked quite a bit of controversy within the Big Ten. Minnesota, who is currently 54-3 this season, was not only un-ranked, but was also not allowed to host part of the tournament in Minneapolis.
The top seed at the 2017 NCAA tournament is the University of Florida, who currently has a 50-6 record for their season. Why Minnesota is not only un-ranked, but not even ranked higher than a school with a worse record than them continues to be a mystery to all Big Ten teams.
This shows just some of the struggles that Big Ten softball has been going through for years. With Southeastern Conference and Pacific-12 teams constantly taking top-place rankings, Big Ten teams are usually seen as second-rate teams in comparison.
Wisconsin softball: The classic underdog story
Wisconsin walks into this tournament as the underdogs, both within their conference and within the tournament — but that’s just how the Badgers like to be seen. Senior catcher Chloe Miller plans on using the Badgers current underdog status to create waves at the tournament and to promote Big Ten softball as a whole.
“[Wisconsin] and the other four Big Ten teams that made it are banded together and we’re going out there to mess up some people’s plans and prove people wrong,” Miller said. “Being able to do that against [the University of Missouri] on primetime slot on ESPN, Friday night at 8 o’clock is pretty cool.”
Wisconsin heads up to Oregon Friday to take part in the Eugene Regional round, hosted by the University of Oregon. If UW manages to take Mizzou, they will then continue on to yet another tough challenge, trying to defeat Oregon at home.
UW faces challenges with Oregon
Oregon is currently on a roll, with a 10-game winning streak and a 47-6 record so far this season. The Ducks are the No. 3 seed overall in this year’s tournament and have allowed a grand total of four runs in their last six games played.
In comparison, Oregon managed to collect a grand total of 42 runs from their last six games played.
Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy knows this tournament is challenging, but she also knows that she is bringing a team that has managed to do demonstrably better on the road than they have at home. Healy and the Badgers only managed to get a grand total of three wins at home this year, ending with a 3-9 record at Goodman, but have a 14-3 record for away games and a 16-3 record for neutral games.
“We play great on the road,” Healy said. “No one likes me saying this, but we’ve been to that regional twice and we’ve managed to put up four wins, so we’ve got more wins at Oregon’s field than we had at Goodman this year. That’s a crazy statistic, but it’s still true so I’m riding on that — that it feels great so let’s go for our fifth win at that stadium.”
The Badgers will take on the Mizzou Tigers Friday at 8 p.m. with ESPN televising the match-up between the SEC and the Big Ten.