Illinois softball heads to Wisconsin looking for first conference win

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

Big Ten play resumes this weekend for Illinois softball (21-12, 0-3) who are traveling north to Madison, Wisconsin, for a three-game series. After a nine-game homestand, the Illini will face the Wisconsin Badgers (15-9, 2-1) for their second conference series.

The Illini endured some cold, some warm (kind of), and a lot of rain while in Champaign, and Madison figures to have all of those this weekend. The Badgers have yet to play a home game in 2023, with their first two canceled due to weather on Tuesday.

It was a rough start to the season for a team that lost six of their first eight games, but the Badgers used their stellar pitching staff to right the ship. At 13-3 over their last 16 games, the Badgers are rolling and ready to play at home.

The Badgers use four pitchers in a rotation, combining for an ERA of 1.99 heading into Friday. Graduate student Maddie Schwartz leads the team in appearances, boasting a 1.11 WHIP and just three home runs allowed in 58 innings. Freshman Paytn Monticelli has been a fine addition in the circle as well, recording 58 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched.

While pitching has been superb for the Badgers, the defense has not. Thirty-seven errors on the year have led to 23 unearned runs, something the Illini will look to take advantage of this weekend. Many of the miscues have been made on the left side of the infield, an area the Illini like to attack with bunts and putting the ball in play.

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    The Badger offense has been fine, but production drops off in the second half of the lineup. Graduate student and designated hitter Kayla Konwent has been the Badger’s best hitter by far this season, leading them in hits, average, OPS, home runs and RBI. Batting in the three-hole, Konwent will be the main Badger to be careful with for Illini pitchers.

    For the Illini, the offense and pitchers got back on track with three comfortable wins after getting swept by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (26-10, 3-0) last weekend. The Illini are hungry for wins this weekend and want to make a statement for the rest of the season.

     

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