On their way to their highest ranked finish in program history, the No. 23 University of Wisconsin softball team (17-2-0) upset No. 9 Texas and No. 15 Arizona State at the Sun Devil Invitational last weekend.
Wisconsin will look to keep their momentous season rolling Friday and Saturday at the USF Showcase Tournament, their final early season tune-up before starting Big Ten play.
The tournament will take place in Clearwater, Florida, where the Badgers have a realistic chance of sweeping their second tournament this season.
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Wisconsin will face five teams this weekend, including the University of Massachusetts (8-7), the University of Southern Florida (14-9), Central Michigan University (7-11), Furman University (5-12) and Villanova University (7-9).
The Badgers will first play Friday against the UMass Minutewomen.
UMass is coming off of a five-win tournament and will look to carry momentum into their opening game against the Badgers.
But UMass has been held under four runs in all but one of their recent losses. Wisconsin will look to exploit their lack of run production thanks to an already dominant pitching staff.
Next up for the Badgers will be fiercest competition in the upcoming tournament — the USF Bulls.
The Bulls may have a slightly underwhelming record at just 14-9, but their competition has been undeniably harder than most teams. Previous opponents include No. 7 Arizona, No. 19 Michigan, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Alabama and No. 13 South Carolina.
While they have only one win against these teams, their experience facing tough competition can’t be over looked by Wisconsin.
Badger pitchers will have to shut down USF’s top hitter — redshirt sophomore Bethaney Keen. Keen is hitting .338 with three home runs in her first 23 games with the Bulls this season.
With five potential pitchers for USF, there is no telling who the Badger offense will face for sure. USF pitchers have held opponents to a measly .198 average compared to the Badgers’ superb .299 team average on the season.
Saturday brings two new teams and two more games for the Badgers against both Central Michigan and Furman. With each team having losing records so far, Wisconsin will look to capitalize at every available opportunity to secure a win.
While Wisconsin and Central Michigan have not played each other this season, they have faced off against the same opponents. These comparative games include contests against Pittsburgh and No. 16 Arizona State.
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Wisconsin defeated Pittsburgh 8–0 in both games and Central Michigan also outscored Pittsburgh 11–6. Arizona State was one of the ranked teams the Badgers upset last weekend, 5–1. Central Michigan lost to the Sun Devils earlier in the season by a score of 8–2, giving the Badgers a potential advantage.
On paper, Furman is a team that the Badgers should be able to dominate offensively. The Paladins have been outscored by an average of four runs per game so far this season and is only hitting a .231 as a team.
Finally, the Badgers will take on Villanova out of the Big East conference.
If the Badgers want to prevail against the Wildcats, they will have to limit Paige Rauch, who already has six home runs on the year. Rauch is hitting .326 and has a team-leading 13 RBIs to go along with her six long balls.
Wisconsin will kick off the USF Tournament in Clearwater, Florida at 10:30 a.m.