Megan McCormick / The Badger HeraldSpring. That special time of year when April showers bring May flowers and other various forms of glorious new life. But, as Wisconsin residents know, spring oftentimes is just an extension of the winter season, with the same dreary cold weather and maybe a patch of snow replaced here and there with a pile of mud.Not only is spring disappointing for those Wisconsinites who enjoy warmer weather and all the things that come with it, but it also affects teams who need the spring weather to practice and play. The Wisconsin softball team has seen firsthand the effects of the colder weather. The team has already played 31 games this season. And not a single one has been at home.UW has overcome an overabundance of road series and have become “road warriors” according to head coach Yvette Healy, whose team sports a 27-4 record thus far and its first top 25 ranking, at No. 25, since 2002.Third baseman Shannel Blackshear commented on playing 31 straight road games, which will eventually total 34 in all before Wisconsin plays at home next Wednesday, and whether playing so many games away from Madison affects the team’s mentality.“I actually don’t think it does,” Blackshear said. “I think we do better when we go into places and play because it’s a big deal to go to a team’s home field and actually take some games from them, so I think it motivates us a little bit more and it will just get us ready for when we actually play here.”Utility player Whitney Massey was in agreement with her teammate and hadn’t even realized her team had played all of its games on the road.“I actually didn’t realize that we were playing all away games until we were talking about it that we’re the only team in the top 25 that haven’t played at home yet,” Massey said. “But I don’t feel like it’s affecting our team at all. I think we’re enjoying playing on the road and we like being the underdogs.”Along with playing all of its games away from Goodman Diamond to start the season, Wisconsin has been limited to practicing only indoors since the season began. The Badgers have spent many days practicing inside the McClain Center, which is usually home to the UW football team, while waiting for the last bits of snow to finally melt.“It makes it tougher,” Healy said. “But at the same time, we’re really fortunate that we have facilities like this. We could complain that we don’t have the dirt and we don’t have the weather, but when you look at a field house like this, it puts us in the top 1 percent of being fortunate.“You could say the glass is half empty, but we think it’s half full that we have these indoor facilities that are so good.”The 34 straight road games this season marks the third-longest stretch the Badgers have waited to start the home portion of its season, with the longest being in 2001 when UW waited until April 13 to play at Goodman.But, as Healy commented, the weather is out of the team’s control and it can only focus on playing softball.“I think you have to be prepared for challenges like this and we’re just kind of embracing the adversity of it,” Healy said. “It is tough; everybody wants to play at home and we’d like the weather to be better, but they’re kind of all out of our control. We just talked about controlling the controllables, and just being excited about playing softball and making the most out of the opportunity at hand and I think the team has done a good job with that.”Certainly Wisconsin has made strides this season with only four losses and its top-25 ranking, but it is clear that weather, specifically the luxury of warmer weather, has played into the hands of the teams who have won national championships.“You look at who’s won all the national championships and you can’t help but notice that it’s a warm weather world out there,” Healy said. “The Pac-12 rules the world and you’ve got the SEC, but the Big Ten has made a lot of strides this year. I think the right kind of kid who appreciates a great environment and great academics, and they appreciate more than just warm weather is the kind of kid we want here. “It takes a special kind of athlete, but we’ve got some of them here, and they see the bright side of it too.”The weather is seemingly almost always cold in Wisconsin and although it might hamper the Badgers somewhat regardless of the weather next Wednesday at home, a hot Wisconsin team will be taking to the field for the first time in a while.
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