Northwoods League expands to softball, bringing Night Mares to Madison

By Jenny Peek | June 4, 2024

  • The Duck Pond ballpark on Madison's northside

The Duck Pond ballpark on Madison's northside will be home to the Night Mares softball team. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Mallards)

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Summertime brings baseball — the ballpark, the hotdogs, the sounds of the organ. But this summer it’s also bringing softball. 

The Northwoods League announced the addition of a summer collegiate softball league with teams in La Crosse, Madison, Mankato, Minnesota and Minot, North Dakota.

With two Wisconsin teams, sports fans can get ready to cheer on the La Crosse Steam and the Madison Night Mares — whose seasons kick off in a match-up on June 15, 2024.

Three of the Night Mares players spoke with “Wisconsin Life” ahead of the season opener touching on how long they’ve been playing, what performing at the Duck Pond ballpark on Madison’s Northside will be like, and what the team means for up-and-coming women athletes. 

Brooke Steinhorst will be a sophomore at Madison College in the fall. She’s a pitcher and a first baseman and has been playing since she was 9.

“I have been playing since 9U and I’ve played on a lot of different travel ball teams. There’s been a couple girls that I’ve consistently played with,” she said. “But it’s really cool being able to play in college and now being able to play in the summer on this big team.”

Brooke Steinhorst, a pitcher for Madison College

Brooke Steinhorst, a pitcher for Madison College. (Photo courtesy of Madison College).

Danielle Lucey, an outfielder and rising sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has also been playing for more than a decade.

“I’ve been playing since I was 9 also. I’ve played for many different teams subbing and I’ve played with a lot of these girls actually,” she said. “It’s just so awesome to be able to play with everyone again. I’m so excited.”

Lucey said it’s made this season feel a bit like a homecoming.

And while both have been playing for years, the Duck Pond is their biggest stage yet. 

“It’s definitely different because I play at the JUCO (junior college) level, so a lot of the fields and stuff are not this big,” Steinhorst said. “And so I’m really excited to play at this bigger field and have more audience.”

UW-Madison softball player Danielle Lucey.

Danielle Lucey, an outfielder for UW-Madison. (Photo courtesy of UW-Madison)

The new league is also giving these athletes a chance to play organized softball during the summer.

“Normally girls just practice on their own,” Lucey said. “So I think this is a great opportunity to get more playing time, live at bats and more pitching for the pitchers.”

But being on the team is more than just another chance to play — it’s about showing young athletes what’s possible.

Andrea Jaskowiak, a soon-to-be sophomore at the University of Iowa, said playing on the Night Mares provides a chance to connect with younger softball players and celebrate the game.

“I know we have a lot of younger up-and-coming softball players that look up to us,” Jaskowiak, a pitcher, said. “So just for us to establish that as a local group, I feel like that’s a big thing for them to look up to.”

Night Mares head coach Aaron Moore said the new league is starting at the perfect time — when more eyes are on women’s sports. He said he hopes this is just one more step to expanding players’ careers.

“I think it’s just incredible to be able to provide opportunities that when you’re done with high school, and when you’re in college or done with college, that you don’t have to be done playing,” he said.

“Having a stepping stone, hopefully to a pro league that one day comes back … in its full glory would be awesome,” Moore added. “And so providing these opportunities for these young players, I think is something that we have to keep doing.”

It’s also a way to open fans up to the world of fastpitch softball.

“I’d say softball’s a lot faster pace, and there’s always something going on in some way,” Jaskowiak said. “So I feel like when fans come out, they can expect probably some more action overall and a lot of excitement there.”

“I feel like we also bring a different kind of energy, so that’ll be good for them to see,” she added.

As for energy, fans can expect cheers and chants at the games plus some seriously good walk-up songs, like the Big Tymer’s  “Still Fly” — Steinhorst’s pick.

They’ll also be able to ogle over the team’s mascot, a miniature horse named Midnight.

Midnight, Madison Night Mares' mascot.

The Madison Night Mares’ mascot Midnight. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Night Mares)

To learn more about the new Northwoods League softball teams, check out Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Larry Meiller Show.” Host Jill Nadeau talked with the league’s commissioner Kathryn Reynolds, plus general manager Samantha Rubin and Night Mares head coach Aaron Moore.

Jenny Peek

Jenny Peek

Jenny Peek is a news editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and senior contributor for Isthmus. When she’s not out tracing her next lede, you’ll find her hanging out with her boys Liam and Riley, often with a piping hot cup of coffee in hand.

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