Wisconsin softball heads west for weekend date with Nebraska

first_imgFor what is now the ninth weekend in a row, the Wisconsin softball team will play on the road starting Friday night in Lincoln, Neb. Yet for something so familiar for the Badgers – they have played every single game on the road this year – there is something completely new to them in their three game series with the Cornhuskers. That’s because this weekend’s series will mark the first time this year Wisconsin has come into a set of games with a losing record in the previous weekend.After losing last weekend’s three-game set at Minnesota two games to one, senior third baseman Shannel Blackshear and Wisconsin (28-6, 6-3 Big Ten) realize positive results can stem from a negative outcome.“I think, if anything, it’s just a motivation because we’ve been doing so well so we haven’t really experienced the adversity of having a team beat us two out of three times yet,” Blackshear said. “I think it’s just going to motivate us to work harder and make some changes.”Wisconsin did not draw a much easier test this weekend in Nebraska, who in only their second year in the Big Ten have made a strong impression on head coach Yvette Healy and her team. Such a strong impression, in fact, that the Wisconsin head coach puts Nebraska up in the top tier with Michigan as far as dominant programs in the conference.“They’re excellent. They bring a tremendous amount of legacy,” Healy said. “They’re a team that’s got all these NCAA tournament appearances and regionals and World Series appearances and they’re one of the most historied programs out there, so for them to be in the Big Ten is a big deal.”“When you go play there it’s a great atmosphere. They’ve got fireworks. It’s like nothing anyone else does with the number of fans and kind of all the pageantry out there. They host the Big Ten tournament this year too, so it’s great. We’re really fortunate to get a regular season weekend in before that conference tournament.”“They’re a standout softball program. I feel like they’re always one of our toughest competitors,” senior Whitney Massey said of the Cornhusker program, which is 9-1 all-time against the Badgers. “They’re like that big shadow that we’re playing against.”Because of the Badgers’ two losses at Minnesota, this week UW dropped out of both polls after being No. 25 in the NFCA poll and No. 23 in the USA softball poll last week. Nebraska, on the other hand, is ranked at No. 22 and No. 18 in the two polls, respectively, indicating another quality Nebraska squad.According to Healy, what makes Nebraska so strong is not only a few star players, but also the overall balance the team possesses as a whole. One reason the Huskers have such balance lies in their strong pitching, led by Tatum Edwards who boasts a 17-6 record in 25 appearances this season. With an ERA of 2.04, Edwards has her sister and fellow Husker Taylor Edwards catch for her. Taylor is currently third on the team with a .337 batting average.“They’ve just got some great players,” Healy said. “Their third baseman Banda is excellent and hits really well against us. They’ve got some good lefty power hitters and some speed, so they’re a balanced team.”The duo of the Edwards sisters are by themselves nearly a two-person wrecking crew. Combined the two have amassed 51 runs batted in and 15 homeruns, and Tatum has recorded over half of the Cornhuskers 28 wins with 17 to go against 6 losses. But the Edwards are not all Nebraska has for talent, with five players hitting above .300 and 21 other homeruns from players other than the Edwards’.Certainly this weekend will not be easy for Wisconsin, but with the Badgers only a half-game behind the Huskers in the Big Ten race at 6-3, these three games carry a great deal of weight in not only rebounding from last weekend but looking forward to the remainder of the conference season.“I think it will be a big test,” Healy said. “I think that was our eighth weekend on the road [at Minnesota] and that was the first weekend we came home with a losing weekend, so we’ve played really well on the road. It’s tough to stay perfect and win every single weekend.“It’s a good time in the year for it to happen. You don’t want to peak too soon and I think we’ve shown that we haven’t peaked too soon. Just like we had the early spring last year and everything was beautiful so early and this year we’re still waiting for spring. I think right now we’re still waiting to see our best softball.”last_img

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