#28 Wisconsin Softball 2014 Preview

Wisconsin Badgers

Overall Rank: #28
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
#28 Wisconsin Softball 2014 Preview
Wisconsin Team Page


In just about one month, the Wisconsin softball team will take to the field with games in Florida and Texas, as the Badgers escape the cold and snowy confines of the Great Lakes in an attempt to improve on a season that saw the team win 44 games and make its fourth NCAA tournament appearance. By the time the Badgers complete that first month schedule and begin Big Ten play against Iowa, Wisconsin will have plenty of tests under its belt and we should have a good idea whether or not the team can duplicate its mark of a year ago. The Badgers lost three position players and a pitcher to graduation but return six position starters and two hurlers to the field, so the odds are looking good for another strong Wisconsin softball season.

2013: 44-13, 16-7
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Yvette Healy

Field Players:
A pair of home runs were all that stood between Wisconsin and a chance to knock off Oregon, one of the nation’s top teams, in the regional round. Two seniors who were partly responsible for Wisconsin’s power surge and strong record are back on the squad for 2014. Mary Massei batted .421 with eight home runs and 38 runs batted in. Her .672 slugging percentage was a partial reason why Massei was a first-team all-Big Ten selection a year ago. Another player, junior Maria Van Abel, only drove in five runs but still came up with a .346 average. Van Abel also stole 12 bases, one of five players a year ago to rack up double-digit steals. Michelle Mueller, an infielder who is also in her senior season, went .317-7-39 with nine stolen bases. Stephanie Peace can play both infield and outfield positions, and she is definitely fleet of feet on the basepaths. Peace stole 22 bases to go with a .284 average, five homers and 27 RBIs. There is enough power and speed back, and that should help the Badgers have a strong season at the plate.  

Although Wisconsin lost backup pitcher Meghan McIntosh to graduation, top pitcher Cassandra Darrah is back along with her 27-7 record, 1.82 earned run average and 172 strikeouts. Darrah gave up 85 walks a year ago so the team may have some concerns about her walk/strikeout ratio, but her strikeout totals were high enough that it proved not to be an issue during the season. With McIntosh gone, look for Taylor Paige-Stewart to see more action in 2014. Stewart was 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA in limited duty and she figures to see more action as the team’s second pitcher. The California native is only a sophomore, so she should see more time in the circle as the Badgers groom her to succeed Darrah next year.

Who to Watch:
Wisconsin brought a freshman class of six onto the 2014 roster, including two pitchers who could possibly spell Darrah and Paige-Stewart on an as-needed basis. Sara Novak, a native of Shorewood, Ill., can play shortstop, pitch and contribute at other utility spots. A dedicated pitcher, Nyah Rodman, comes to the Badgers from Lakewood, California and, if she makes an early impact, she could see some time in the circle in mop-up duty.

Final Projection:
A strong Big Ten should be the only thing keeping Wisconsin from moving up in the standings. The Badgers should have another strong year around 40 victories, and whether or not the Badgers can approach last year’s record-setting pace depends on whether or not it can withstand the loss of key talent like McIntosh, Kendall Grimm and Whitney Massey (12 home runs in 2013). There is enough power and pitching back on the roster to fill in the blanks and help the team get some traction. The first month of the season, with games against schools like Florida, Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and Louisville, will go a long way toward the Badgers’ early-season success.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Mary Massei, OF, 195
Hits: Mary Massei, OF, 82
Home Runs: Mary Massei, OF, 8
RBIs: Michelle Mueller, IF, 39
Runs: Mary Massei, OF, 51
Stolen Bases: Stephanie Peace, IF/OF, 22

Wins: Cassandra Darrah, P, 27
Innings Pitched: Cassandra Darrah, P, 231.1
Strikeouts: Cassandra Darrah, P, 172
Saves: Taylor Paige-Stewart, P, 1


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