After a tiring but successful 10-day road trip that saw the Wisconsin softball team play 11 games, the Badgers took a couple well-deserved days off early this week before gearing up to face Northwestern in the Big Ten opener next weekend.After opening the trip with losses to nationally ranked Stanford and BYU as well as to Pacific, the Badgers won six of the last seven games, including their final five. Keying the win streak was sound defensive play by the Badger infield. Head coach Chandelle Schulte made particular mention of junior Athena Vasquez as the main catalyst of the improved defensive effort. “Third base had been a position where we were having some problems with errors,” Schulte explained. “We moved [Vasquez] to third base and got very good defense out of her, which was a huge help.”The improved defense has done more than simply lower the number in the error column of the box score. Schulte credits the defense with helping the overall performance of her pitchers.”When the defense behind a pitcher is not making errors, it gives the pitcher a lot more confidence,” Schulte said.Schulte also mentioned that after an early season, which saw the Badgers use 11 different starting lineups, the coaching staff has settled on a lineup that it likes and that has produced results.”Everyone has been contributing, but you never know who is going to come through each day,” Schulte said. “Every day it is someone different who helps carry the team, which is good. I like it better than relying on one player to come through every game.” The Badgers were afforded the chance to play both Utah State and Miami (Ohio) multiple times during the trip, giving the team a taste of what Big Ten action will be like. During conference play, teams play each other in two-game series.”The second time playing those teams, we played much better, and the players gained a ton of confidence,” Schulte noted.While the benefits of playing so many games cannot be overstated for such a young and inexperienced team, there are some minor drawbacks to all the play.”After all that game action, we really physically and mentally needed some time off,” Schulte said. “We have some minor injuries, but mostly just sore muscles from overuse that will be better with some time off.”Besides the game experience and confidence the Badgers gained during the trip, this particular Badger team has something Schulte sees as equally important.”In my 12 years coaching, this team has the best chemistry by far. Off the field, the kids really enjoy each other. We learned a lot about each other during the trip, which will help us work through any tough stretches in the season.”Having found such chemistry and riding a five-game win streak, tough stretches seem like something this Badger team won’t have to worry about for a long time.
According to the report, the team wants to get a deal done before Thursday’s NFL Draft. Roethlisberger, 37, was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2004 and is entering the final season of a four-year, $87.6 million contract he inked in 2015. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, citing an unidentified source, reported Wednesday the two sides are close to finalizing a new three-year contract for Ben Roethlisberger that should be announced later in the day. Related News Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury addresses Patrick Peterson’s future with team Did JuJu Smith-Schuster just throw shade at Antonio Brown? NFL Draft 2019: Are the Packers considering Drew Lock? The two sides apparently have been working on the deal since the end of last season.Pittsburgh posted a 9-6-1 record in 2018, which was good for second in the AFC North. Roethlisberger led the league in passing, throwing for a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also led the league in passing attempts.The two-time Super Bowl champion ranks sixth all time in passing yards and seventh in touchdowns, and it appears the Steelers want to reward him for those contributions. Pittsburgh is looking to keep Ben Roethlisberger for a little bit longer.The Steelers working on an extension for the 15-year signal caller, according to ESPN, which cited an unidentified league source. The Steelers have a promising running back in James Conner returning next season after he rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. But the team also traded elite wideout Antonio Brown and lost top-notch running back Le’Veon Bell to free agency.They retained an up-and-coming target in JuJu Smith-Schuster, but may have to depend on the draft to fill in some gaps.Pittsburgh has 10 picks in the upcoming draft, but only one is in the first round Thursday.