Feb. 15, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin pitching staff was one of the youngest in the country last year and with all three starters back in the circle, the Badgers' future looks bright this season.
"We had one of the youngest pitching staffs in the country last year, relying on two freshmen and a sophomore," said head coach Yvette Healy. "We're thrilled to return all three this season. Our pitching coach Tracie Adix does an outstanding job teaching and mentoring our young pitchers. She works extremely hard on the mental and physical side of the game. Each of our returning pitchers has the ability to fine-tune their current pitches while adding new elements to their game."
Returners: Cassandra Darrah, Meghan McIntosh, Amanda Najdek
Newcomer: Amanda Oberc
Cassandra Darrah started in 29 games for the Badgers in her freshman campaign, pitching 18 complete games. The sophomore right-hander led Wisconsin with a 2.51 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 187 innings pitched.
"Cassandra is an athletic pitcher with a great feel for the game. She competes hard, fields her position well, and has the ability to spin the ball and change speeds."
Junior Meghan McIntosh earned 19 starts in 2011, finishing with a 10-9 record in 28 appearances.
"Meghan has worked extremely hard in the off season. As a junior, she's taken on a great leadership role this fall and winter. Her extra effort in conditioning, in the weight room, and breaking down film will certainly pay off as the only upperclassman on staff."
Sophomore Amanda Najdek appeared in 21 games for UW last season, recording a 4-4 record in 65.1 innings pitched.
"Amanda has become far more athletic this season, improving her strength and conditioning. She has great spin and the ability to change speeds, which keeps hitters off balance."
All three returners gained valuable experience last season that is essential to Big Ten play.
"Experience is critical in a league as competitive as the Big Ten. Every game is a test, and every hitter we face in Big Ten play has the ability to change the course of the game with one swing. Our pitchers have become much more savvy, asking great questions and understanding how to make their pitches work. They have spent the fall and winter studying film and breaking down their mechanics to streamline their motions."
Coach Healy is asking this year's staff to keep the Badgers in games, something they did well last year. Wisconsin was 16-3 in 2011 when it held opponents to two runs or less.
"We ask our pitchers to keep us in every game. That means they have to limit the number of free bases they give up from walks, hit batters, passed balls and wild pitches. Our goal is always to limit the number of home runs and extra-base hits that we surrender too. We're looking for the pitchers to stay mentally tough and battle throughout the game, even if they give up a few big hits or runs. If we can hold our opponents to two or three runs, our offense has a great chance to win the game for us."
The Badgers' first test comes on Friday, Feb. 17 when they take the field against Drake at the USF Tournament in Tampa, Fla. First pitch is set for noon (CT).