BEN CLASSON/Herald photoAfter knocking off UW-Green Bay in a doubleheader Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin softball team (26-15, 5-7) will carry its hot bats into Michigan in hopes of stealing a set of conference wins from the likes of No. 8 Michigan (38-8, 8-2) and Michigan State (26-24, 2-8). Despite being swept in both halves of their home finale last Sunday, it seems a non-conference set with the Phoenix was just what the Badgers needed. Wisconsin was able to squeak by UW-Green Bay 2-1 in the first game, but blew the Phoenix out 10-1 in Game 2 behind two home runs off the bat of Ricci Robben. Joey Daniels also went deep in Game 1, and added a 3-for-3 performance in the nightcap. In the circle, senior Eden Brock turned in another solid outing for UW, going six innings and allowing one run in the first game. Letty Olivarez followed in Game 2, and proceeded to fan a career-high 12 batters in six innings. Leah Vanevenhoven worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning in Game 1, and effectively closed out Game 2 in relief of Letty Olivarez. Having a hard-throwing arm at the back of the bullpen is an advantage UW head coach Chandelle Schulte knows will help out in tight situations. "We can't let people back into the ballgame," Schulte said. "We've got to shut the door. We talked a lot about that in between games, and I felt like we did that better the second game." Olivarez has continued to handle a heavy load over what has been an up-and-down season at times, but the experience she gains as a freshman will only make her a better pitcher in years to come. "It's really just about her getting some confidence," Schulte said. "We've got to get her confident now, because she is the future." Continuing to lead the Badgers at the plate is senior centerfielder Sam Polito, who extended her hitting streak to a school-record 16 games against the Phoenix. The previous record was held by Julie Borchard, who had streaks of 14 games in both 1996 and 1998. Polito finished the day 5-for-7 and raised her average to a team-high .386. With any luck, Saturday's series with MSU will serve as a warm-up for Wisconsin's major test against Michigan Sunday, but the Badgers know that no one should be taken lightly in the Big Ten conference. Four players in the Spartans' starting lineup are hitting .300 or better, with sophomore catcher Kara Weigle leading the way at .377. Although possessing many of the qualities of a typical catcher, Weigle certainly doesn't fit the mold when it comes to speed. Her eight triples pace the squad and she has also been successful in 13 of 15 stolen base attempts. From East Lansing, Mich., the Badgers will head southeast to Ann Arbor, and awaiting them will be the No. 8 team in the country — Michigan. The Wolverines come into this weekend's matchup on a roll, having won their last five contests, and 11 of the last 13. Much like Wisconsin, Michigan relies heavily on its own speedy centerfielder, junior Alessandra Giampaolo. Giampaolo is hitting .409 on the year, and carries her own eight-game hit streak into Sunday's matchup with the Badgers. Lining up alongside Giampaolo is reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Rebekah Milian, who owns a .361 average to go along with 43 hits and 31 runs. If the Badgers hope to claw their way back into the upper half of the Big Ten, taking four conference victories on their tour of the Wolverine state would be a step in the right direction. "These next few games are vital," first baseman Alexis Garcia said. "We have to do well."
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