Softball begins Big Ten play

first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoThe Wisconsin softball team hits the road again Friday, but this time its destination will not be so sunny and warm.Wisconsin (10-21) heads to Evanston, Ill., to take on No. 16 Northwestern (13-9) for a two-game set beginning Friday afternoon. The Badgers hope to continue their winning ways against the Wildcats after finishing 3-2 at the Stanford Invitational II in Palo Alto, Calif.“I think it’s definitely a challenge to start against Northwestern,” junior outfielder Valyncia Raphael said. “The way we’ve been playing, it’s definitely going to make us step our game up and make sure we’re focused to start the Big Ten off with a bang.”Although they fell 5-1 to Stanford March 21, the Badgers believe their game against the Cardinal showed some very positive aspects of its play.“Just to know we can play at that level with a team like Stanford is pretty exciting for us,” senior infielder Lynn Anderson said. “We know going into the Big Ten now that we can play with anybody.”Northwestern returns home this week after trips to California and Hawaii that saw it go 3-6 with a pair of three-game losing streaks.“I’d rather play them now than later,” UW head coach Chandelle Schulte said of the Wildcats. “I think that they are tired, I think they are beatable and I think this would be a great time for us to take advantage of that.”This weekend’s games also mark the home opener for the Wildcats and their first home games since the renovation of Sharon J. Drysdale Field.Northwestern is led by the pitching of sophomore Lauren Delaney, who boasts a 2.16 earned run average in 116.1 innings pitched and 165 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitting only .160 against Delaney in 394 at-bats.“If we hit, we’ll be in every game,” Schulte said. “Delaney is one of the better pitchers in the country, but we hit better pitching, so hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”Also on the schedule for this weekend is a trip to East Lansing, Mich., for a doubleheader Sunday against Michigan State (14-13).The Spartans went 2-1 last weekend at the Best Western Miami Invitational, hosted by the Redhawks of Miami (Ohio). MSU is led by strong hitting, with freshman Bianca Mejia, junior Gina Mondo and senior Nikki Nicosia all hitting .349 or better with on-base percentages over .400 and slugging percentage better than .500.Over spring break, the Badgers traveled to Missouri and California, playing 12 games in 10 days. The trip started slowly as Wisconsin extended its losing streak to eight games before beating Princeton in its first game in Palo Alto.“There’s a monkey running around somewhere because it finally got off our back,” Schulte said of snapping the streak. “If you see it, make sure you don’t return it.”As the Big Ten season kicks off this weekend, Wisconsin is working on playing as a team in order to continue to turn its season around and play more consistently.“We just need to focus on playing for each other and playing behind each other,” Raphael said. “We need to make sure we’re mentally ready and focused.”With four games scheduled so close to home this weekend, the Badgers are getting anxious to get outside and play on their home field at Goodman Diamond. Wisconsin’s first home game is scheduled for April 2 against Loyola.“It’s really hard to go 10 days and play 12 games outside and then come back [and practice] inside,” Schulte said. “Psychologically, it just really takes its toll on you, but it is what it is and we just have to make the best of it.”last_img read more

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