Badgers head west for Wolfpack Softball Classic

first_imgThe Wisconsin softball team has spent the last three weekends circling the southeast corner of the nation, competing in tournaments in Florida and South Carolina. This weekend, they will finally hit the west coast for a tournament in Reno, Nev.The Wolfpack Softball Classic, hosted by the University of Nevada, will include the University of San Diego in addition to Wisconsin. The Badgers will alternate between San Diego and Nevada for their first three games on Friday and Saturday, before finishing the weekend with two additional games against Nevada.Following a strong showing last weekend in Charleston, SC – where the Badgers finished 2-1 – head coach Yvette Healy is happy with her team’s play thus far but wants to continue making strides.“We’re in a good place to be, at .500, with the competition we are seeing.” Healy said. “I am happy with how we are starting to come together a little bit, but we haven’t gotten a huge amount of momentum yet.”If momentum is what they are searching for, they will have to look no further than this weekend’s first opponent, San Diego. The Toreros have won seven straight games by sweeping through the San Diego Classic last weekend and beating Maine on Wednesday.San Diego has been carried through the streak by its pitching, surrendering only 13 runs in the last seven games. As the Badgers prepare to slow down the Toreros, Wisconsin’s offense will certainly be the topic of emphasis.“[San Diego] is strong. They have great pitching, and that is their biggest thing,” Healy said. “They have some people throwing great games for them, getting a lot of strikeouts and holding hitters down. We’ll have to get creative.”Healy’s ability to get creative with offensive tactics has come, in large part, from the surprising source of freshman outfielder Maria Van Abel. The Kaukauna, Wis., native has greatly surpassed expectations in this season’s first month, emerging from the bench to starting in the outfield and batting second in the lineup.She was able to quickly catch the eyes of coaches with her numerous ways of jump-starting the offense.Van Abel currently leads the team in hitting with a .455 batting average, while providing a change-up of speed by leading the team with four stolen bases. Her multiple facets made Healy’s lineup changes an easy decision.“It’s always fun when someone comes in and can get hot for a couple weekends,” Healy said. “She has been a real boost and burst of energy for us, and you need that at the top of the lineup.”The lineup change displays the coaches’ confidence in the freshman outfielder; a confidence that has not gone unnoticed by Van Abel herself.“It means a lot, knowing that the coaches think you can succeed,” Van Abel said. “It really helps you believe that you can succeed as well.”The Badgers will face Nevada on each day of the weekend, adding three road games to their record. The Wolfpack appear to represent the opposite end of the spectrum from San Diego, only winning five games on the season while losing seven of their last eight.Nevada’s victories have come sparingly, but they tend to occur when senior Mallory Darby is on the mound. The Badgers will likely face Darby twice during the weekend, so Coach Healy sees an opponent just as difficult as San Diego.“They’re at home, so it brings in the element that you have to beat a team on their home field,” Healy said. “They also have a few good wins. They may not have as many, but they have played a good schedule.”Pitching for the Badgers this weekend will be Cassandra Darrah and Meghan McIntosh, both of whom had success last weekend in Charleston.Darrah surrendered only two runs over 10 innings of work, helping Wisconsin beat Connecticut and hang around against Kansas. McIntosh pitched an eight-inning complete game against Charleston Southern, striking out a career-high 14 batters. Nonetheless, there remains much room for improvement for the Badger pitchers.“Getting those strikeouts and letting the defense work definitely boosted my confidence,” McIntosh said. “But I’m trying to look back on where my hard hits are given up, and keep the ball lower in the zone.”While offering another chance for improvement from the Badgers pitching staff, five-game weekends can provide the gel a team needs to bring about success.“These next two weekends are going to be pretty big for us to start putting it together,” Healy said. “I think we’re learning a lot and we’re getting better, but now you have to start putting it to use.”last_img

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