#34 Wisconsin Softball 2015 Preview

Wisconsin Badgers

Overall Rank: #34
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
#34 Wisconsin Softball 2015 Preview
Wisconsin Team Page


Overall, it was a successful season for the Wisconsin softball program. It wasn’t the Badgers’ fault they were paired up against Oregon and lost two games to the Ducks in NCAA tournament play. It marked the second straight season Wisconsin fell to Oregon in the NCAA tournament, but last year also marked a decline in the program’s fortunes. Wisconsin dropped from 44 wins to 36, but postseason play was still reached. How will this year’s team fare? Here is a clue: Last year’s Badgers had four players with 10 home runs or more. Of those four, only one is back. That could cause a huge problem for a Badgers squad looking for solid power numbers out of its lineup. Stay tuned. This season could get interesting if the home-run power disappears.

2014: 36-20, 15-7
2014 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Yvette Healy

Field Players:
The graduation of top hitters Mary Massei, Michelle Mueller and Stephanie Peace robs the team of plenty of power. Together, these three combined for 171 of Wisconsin’s 392 hits and 32 of the team’s 48 homers. When you lose nearly half your hitting and two-thirds of your pop, that is bound to cause problems. Chloe Miller (.295-12-37) is back for her sophomore season and instantly vaults to the top of the lineup in terms of home-run power. Senior Maria Van Abel (.302) doesn’t bring a lot of power to the lineup with just 10 runs batted in, but her speed and average (24 stolen bases) help make up for any shortcomings. With outfielder Marissa Mersch and infielder Ashley VanZeeland back, look for Wisconsin’s game to switch to one of speed over power until the other players find their batting stroke. Mersch and VanZeeland combined for 32 stolen bases.

Wisconsin will need to build its pitching rotation back up with Cassandra Darrah having graduated. The good news is Taylor-Paige Stewart (15-7, 3.21 ERA, 135 strikeouts) is back to anchor the rotation. Sara Novak saw just two appearances a year ago but will likely earn some more playing time as the Badgers form a solid rotation. Healy recruited two freshmen to help in the process, and sophomore Nyah Rodman could also see time in the circle when not playing in the field. Stewart will need to have a solid season if Wisconsin is to go anywhere, or the Badgers could end up having a bad year.

Who to Watch:
In addition to Miller’s bat, the Badgers will need to groom freshman Annie Davis. She was heavily recruited by Pac-12 programs but chose to move away from Arizona to play collegiate softball. Look for freshman Mariah Watts (St. Petersburg, Florida), who prepped at Lakewood High School and had 161 strikeouts in 98 innings as a senior. If these two pitchers can help solidify the rotation a little bit, then Wisconsin will breathe a little easier. Watts and Davis are part of a freshman class that will make an impact for the Badgers in future seasons.

Final Projection:
Wisconsin has a bit of a problem ahead. If the Badgers don’t replace the home runs hit during the 2013-14 season, the team has to hope its speed improves or stays the same as it did a year ago. Anything short of last year’s totals and Wisconsin could drop back in the standings to 30-35 wins. The Badgers should have enough in the tank to finish high in the Big Ten, however, and another postseason appearance is not out of the question if everyone settles into their roles and helps Wisconsin overcome its losses. Wisconsin has an early game against Oregon at the Arizona State tournament, so the Badgers could get a look at how effective their new lineup is against an old foe.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Maria Van Abel, OF, 162
Hits: Maria Van Abel, OF, 49
Home Runs: Chloe Miller, IF, 12
RBIs: Chloe Miller, IF, 37
Runs: Maria Van Abel, OF, 33
Stolen Bases: Maria Van Abel, OF, 24

Wins: Taylor Paige-Stewart, P, 15
Innings Pitched: Taylor Paige-Stewart, P, 159.1
Strikeouts: Taylor Paige-Stewart, P, 135
Complete Games: Taylor Paige-Stewart, P, 19


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