first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoUse all the clichés you want. Win or go home. Now or never. All or nothing. The bottom line is this: The Wisconsin softball team must sweep Minnesota this weekend in its final regular season games to have a chance of making the Big Ten tournament.Only the top eight teams in the conference make the conference postseason tournament, and the Badgers (26-19, 5-11 Big Ten) currently sit in ninth place. Minnesota (23-21, 3-8 Big Ten) is right behind Wisconsin in the standings, with Indiana at the bottom.”These games are huge,” UW senior infielder Athena Vasquez said. “We’ve just got to come out blazing with all our energy, all our effort, just going all out. This weekend controls our destiny.”Wisconsin’s fate does not rest entirely in its own hands, however. Along with a sweep of the Gophers, the Badgers will also need either of two scenarios to happen. Michigan has to win both games this weekend against Michigan State, or Ohio State needs to sweep Penn State. With Michigan State and Penn State sitting at 6-8 and 5-7 respectively in conference play, two losses by either would put them below the Badgers, assuming Wisconsin holds its end of the bargain.Coming off a weekend in which it went 0-4 against Michigan and Michigan State, Wisconsin will need to play with more intensity than they did when scoring only six runs in the four-game stretch.”If we play like we did against Michigan and Northwestern, then we’ll be fine,” Schulte said. “If we play like we did against Michigan State, then we won’t be practicing after next week.”With the results of a few other conference games looming large, the Badgers will no doubt be watching the scoreboards in hopes that either the Nittany Lions or Spartans drop both of their respective contests this weekend. But before they do so, the Badgers have to make sure to take care of their own business first.”If we lose Saturday, then it doesn’t really matter,” Schulte said. “If we win Saturday, then I’m sure I’ll check the scoreboard.”Vasquez admits she’ll also be checking up on the other games in the conference to see where her team’s postseason hopes lie.”We’ll pay attention to our game, but I guess the coaches will keep it in the back of their minds,” Vasquez said. “We won’t necessarily be worrying about it during the game, but I’m sure the coaches will be keeping a tab on it for us.”The first game between Wisconsin and Minnesota will be played Saturday at the Jane Sage Cowles Softball Stadium in Minneapolis, with the second game to follow Sunday.The Badgers will look to ace Eden Brock to pitch them past the woeful Gopher bats. Minnesota’s offense has been lacking almost all season, so solid pitching performances by Brock and freshman Letty Olivarez will be key for the Badgers.The Wisconsin lineup may also welcome back shortstop Lynn Anderson, who has been out with a knee injury. If Anderson does play, Schulte hopes to limit her action as to not reaggravate her knee.”When Leah (Vanevenhoven) or Letty are pitching, then Lynn will not have to hit because there’s some rotation on that knee that we’re concerned about,” Schulte said. “With Eden in the lineup, Lynn would have to hit, so it will be whether or not having her back at this point is going to give us an edge.”One of the few bright spots for Minnesota has been Briana Hassett, who has pitched her way to an 11-7 record and carries a 2.05 ERA into the weekend set. Hassett led her team to an upset victory over Michigan earlier in the season by pitching a gem, giving up only two hits on her way to a complete game shutout.At the plate for the Gophers, infielder Megan Higginbotham is the only starter to hit over .300, as she is hitting .301 on the season with seven home runs and 23 runs batted in.In recent games, Wisconsin has been unable to score runs early, but has had better success scoring in the later innings.”We’re still getting seven, eight, nine hits a game, but I’d say the majority are in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings,” Schulte said. “We need to have the mentality that we need to do that earlier and put pressure on them.”When the Badgers return to Madison after the weekend series, they hope to come back ready to practice for the Big Ten tournament.But that won’t happen if they don’t win.”It doesn’t really matter unless we win,” Schulte said. “I told them, ‘You guys gotta play like there’s no tomorrow,’ because there literally isn’t.”last_img

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