After dispatching Minnesota, Wisconsin turns to Western Illinois

first_imgUW ace Cassandra Darrah will square off with Western Illinois’ Jamie Goss and Ashley Campbell who combine for 11 home runs and 57 RBIs.[/media-credit]The Wisconsin softball team just continues to find ways to win.After finishing off last weekend’s conference sweep against Minnesota with the largest comeback victory in the program’s history – coming back to win 11-10 despite being down eight runs in the fourth inning – Wisconsin (20-12, 6-3) welcomes Western Illinois (22-16, 12-3) to Goodman Diamond for a Tuesday doubleheader.Both teams are riding hot play entering Tuesday’s games. The Fighting Leathernecks have won 16 of their last 19 games, with a 10-game winning streak in that stretch. The Badgers are no strangers to wins as of late either, as the team has won its last six contests.Western Illinois, currently the top team in the Summit League, will look on its offense to carry it past the Badgers and their strong pitching. The Leathernecks are led by dynamic freshman Sammy Marshall, a speedy leadoff threat that leads the Summit League with 55 hits and is second in batting with an average of .420. The speed of Marshall on the bases is something the Badgers will also look to contain, as the freshman has yet to be picked off this season, stealing successfully on all 45 of her attempts.Offensively, the Leathernecks are solid top to bottom. Starters Jamie Goss and Ashley Campbell both come into Tuesday with batting averages at .353 and .302, respectively. Both have home run pop and the knack for the big hits, as the two have combined for 11 of the team’s 21 home runs and 57 RBIs.However, the Leathernecks’ offensive attack will face a challenge when they are countered by the Badgers’ ace, Cassandra Darrah. Wisconsin’s No. 1 option on the mound is coming off a phenomenal weekend, being named the Big Ten’s Co-Pitcher of the Week for her terrific performances against University of Illinois-Chicago, Loyola-Chicago and conference rival Minnesota. Darrah enjoyed an almost unblemished week of performances, going 4-0 in her four starts while giving up just one earned run.As a sophomore, Darrah has transformed the valuable experience she gained last season into a dominating approach.“I learned a lot at the end of last year, during Big Ten play, that spots are super important.” Darrah said. “In high school I didn’t worry about it as much, but literally hitting your lanes and hitting your heights, you can pretty much take on anybody.”The Badgers will most likely go with Darrah on the mound in game one, but the team will hope to find solid production from the rest of the pitching staff. While Darrah continues to shine for Wisconsin – 12-6 in 20 appearances with a 2.31 ERA – the sophomore has largely covered up the struggles of the rest of the team’s pitchers. In game two, the Badgers will look to either sophomore Amanda Najdek (4-1, 4.20 ERA) or junior lefty Meghan McIntosh (3-5, 3.13 ERA) to provide the pitching against the Leathernecks.Although head coach Yvette Healy will have to decide between Darrah, Najdek or McIntosh, the coaching staff will retain utmost confidence in its chosen starter.“It’s about who is putting wins together and who is keeping the other team down.” Healy said. “So you’re looking at stats, but you’re also just seeing the tempo of the game and how we win.”Offensively, the Badgers are coming off a three-game weekend series sweep against the Gophers in which the team posted a combined 19 runs. With balance across the lineup, the Badger bats will pose a tough challenge for the Leatherneck pitching staff. While Kelsey Michelini (12-6, 2.75 ERA) and Hailey Bickford (28-7, 2.48 ERA) will be the Western Illinois 1-2 punch against the Wisconsin offense, they will have to contain the Big Ten’s fifth-best offensive team.Wisconsin currently bats a solid .295 as a squad, bolstered by a handful of talented players. The Badgers’ roster currently holds six players on its roster with batting averages over .300 on the season, including Maria Van Abel (.369 average, 10 stolen bases), Mary Massei (.343, 17 RBIs) and Whitney Massey (.313, 25 RBIs).Another player enjoying success at the plate for the cardinal and white is sophomore Stephanie Peace. Peace, who’s currently batting .304 on the season, recently was named Big Ten player of the week for her role in the Badgers’ six-game win streak. She joins Darrah on the list to become the first duo in school history to earn Big Ten honors in the same week.Peace has lit up Wisconsin’s opponents with a .625 batting average in the last six games, including a 1.375 slugging percentage and .700 on-base percentage. Peace also played a key role in Wisconsin’s historic comeback from an eight-run deficit last Saturday against Minnesota, going 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and a home run while leading the Badgers to an 11-10 win.The Badgers also continue to benefit from the return of Molly Spence, who sat out the entire 2011 season due to injury. The former team offensive-MVP has found her power early, blasting seven home runs and 23 RBIs while maintaining a .263 average. With last season’s all Big-Ten honoree Karla Powell struggling through injuries for the Badgers in limited at-bats and power-hitting Shannel Blackshear yet to find her home run swing, the Badgers have yet to show their full potential this season.Tuesday’s games mark Wisconsin’s last non-conference opponent before a stretch of six straight against Big Ten foes.last_img