Last year, the University of Wisconsin women’s softball team ended their season with a record of 35-17 a winning season for the Badgers that unfortunately ended in Oregon against the Ducks during the Regional Championship. It was another year of entering the NCAA Tournament that gave Wisconsin well-deserved recognition of a strong season.

The Badgers are getting ready to play their third invitational this season in Clearwater, Florida before their regular Big Ten season begins. Playing a sport in a state that is known for its cold winters only adds to the anticipation. It’s exciting because now it’s softball, softball and more softball. For these players, spring is what they look forward to all year.

This is the time when players are moving around and getting in the groove of the sport they commit to and love. Head Coach Yvette Healy is going to find her players’ strengths and weaknesses that will shape them throughout the rest of the season. This is her time to understand how her new freshman work while also learning about how they will grow to compliment the veteran players on the team.

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With six freshman and five seniors, there is much to be learned.

Kelsey Jenkins and Brooke Wyderski, both seniors, will be the rocks of this softball team. Jenkins already has the most hits within her 14 games, holding the highest average on the team with 0.372. With a slugging percentage of 0.522, Wyderski leads the team with 24 total bases in 46 at bats.

Freshman Taylor Johnson is hitting with an average of 0.184 with an on base percentage of 0.333. She has started every game so far to with a total of 38 at bats and seven runs for her seven hits.

Wisconsin Softball is ranked 40th on the NCAA rankings, among 286 other D1 teams, and has defeated three teams with higher rankings than theirs including Auburn, which is ranked seventh.

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Friday at 12:30 p.m., Wisconsin will play Central Michigan to start off the 16th annual USF Series in the Under Armour Invitational. That same day, they will play at 3 p.m. against the University of South Florida, hosts of the tournament. On Saturday they play another double header, facing The College of Charleston at 9 a.m. and Western Michigan at 11 a.m. The Badgers then play their final game of the tournament on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. against Wright States’ Rowdy Raiders.

Both Central Michigan and Western Michigan have a tied records of wins and losses, while USF, Charleston and Wright State are all ranked significantly lower than Wisconsin. Hopefully the Badgers can begin to gain momentum to turn their 7-7 record to a winning one in the future weeks.

No matter how many pop-flies you catch, no matter how many times you practice hitting that outside curveball or practice laying down the perfect bunt, nothing compares to the real game. It’s all preparation for the real thing. And the real thing is about to kick into high gear.