In this week's blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how there are no shortcuts when building a championship program.
It's great to be back in Madison after a long weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. We traveled to Purdue and split on Saturday before dropping a heartbreaker yesterday. It was only the second Big Ten series we've lost all year.
It's amazing how much it hurts to lose games and drop series. There's a lot of emotional investment in the Badger softball program right now. Our biggest challenge is how we respond to these setbacks. Sports are amazing. They'll rip your heart out sometimes.
I think the losses along the way are just as important as the wins. We love to see what each kid does when she struggles. Does she try to go it alone? Does she back down and get quiet, getting inside her own head? Does she get sad when things don't go her way? Or, does she trust her training, work even harder, and battle back? We challenge our kids everyday not to be selfish. We challenge them to focus on the team, finding a way to contribute even when things are bad. It's such a life lesson, focusing out-word and upward when things are at their worst. Successful people reach out to their teammates and coaches, and find a way to overcome the tough times. They keep things in perspective, and work to overcome their obstacles.
It really has been such a great year so far. We're 30-15 right now, and the Big Ten race is wide open. Wisconsin is 12-6 in conference play, tied for fourth, but just one game out of first with Michigan sitting at 13-5.
Of course we hate that we lost, but we were so pleased with how we hit the ball at Purdue. We scored 14 runs in three games, with 28 hits; they scored 14 runs on 21 hits. It really came down to defense. They pressured us into seven errors this weekend, and had a few key hits when it counted. That's what good teams do though, they pressure and they force you to work very hard for every out. Despite a lot of fight and several great rally innings, we couldn't overcome some of the early and costly mistakes we made in the games we lost.
Here's the exciting part. We have the second best batting average and slugging percentage in conference play, hitting .323, with a .459 slugging percentage. Michigan leads both of those categories. They've also won the conference title the last three years. What an exciting time to face them at home this weekend.
It's funny when you look at the new Big Ten schedule. A lot of fans and teams are complaining about fairness, since each team won't face three other conference foes each season. We've never gotten caught up in that argument. We'll face the No. 1 and No. 2 teams these last two weekends, with six games left against Michigan and Nebraska.
I couldn't think of a better way to finish the season. If you really are a true competitor, you want the tougher road. You want to face the best teams, in the toughest situations, when it matters most.
The path of least resistance sounds appealing, but it's never gotten anyone far. When building a championship program, there are no shortcuts and there's no easy way out. You have to earn every ounce of respect you get, and you'll have to fight for every win and each accolade you collect along the way. Our staff knows that we're the underdogs entering these last few weekends, and that's right where we want to be. We have a scrappy group of hard-working, tenacious young ladies that have something left to prove. Sure the task at hand is big, and truly challenging, but isn't that why we all play and coach this game?