After starting the Big Ten season on a seven-game losing streak, Wisconsin’s softball team finally put a win in the column after beating Indiana 3-0 last Sunday. The win was significant for the Badgers, considering they had blown the previous game by giving up five runs in the seventh inning.
“Coming back after a tough loss is really important and really helps with our momentum for this week,” junior Theresa Boruta said. “After that rough seventh inning the team had to reevaluate what we were doing, but then we came out big the next game.”
UW hopes the momentum they gained from that win will carry over when they play a nonconference game against Northern Iowa today at Goodman Diamond. The Badgers view this game as a tune up for a tough Big Ten weekend that includes two games against No. 6 Michigan.
“They’re important as far as seeing a different lineup, and you may see some of the younger kids a bit to give our older kids rest,” head coach Chandelle Schulte said of nonconference games. “Also, you don’t really want to go a week without playing because you don’t want to lose that competitive edge.”
The star of the Badgers’ last game was freshman pitcher Kristyn Hansen — she pitched a complete game shutout — but she has only pitched 29.2 innings on the season. After shutting out the Hoosiers last Sunday, UW will be looking for her to see more action.
“It depends on the opponent, it depends on the warm-up, it depends on all kinds of things, but given what she did I would expect her to pitch more,” Schulte said.
The main reason the Badgers lost three games last weekend was the pitching staff’s inability to keep the ball in the park. The pitchers gave up five home runs last weekend and have given up 26 long balls for the season. Northern Iowa has a strong hitting lineup, including three players who are batting over .300 and two who have hit five home runs on the season.
“We are just putting the ball over the plate,” Schulte said. “This is a game of inches, and we are leaving too much ball over the plate. We are supposed to pitch outside, and we miss in the middle. You can’t do that at this level, because they will make you pay for every mistake.”
Wisconsin has been burned by inconsistent defense all season long, including a team-high 16 errors from senior shortstop Lynn Anderson. Sunday, however, UW did not commit any errors in the field and turned several double plays to help their pitcher out of jams.
“This is the defense we see all the time in practice, and we really haven’t put it in play during the games or helped our pitchers out that much,” Boruta said. “All it takes is one great play, and then everyone feeds off that. I think that is true of what happened on Sunday, and we will look to continue playing that way.”
Leading the Badgers in offense over the weekend was junior Valyncia Raphael with four hits, including two doubles. The UW offense has been struggling lately and will look to Raphael to set the tone for the team.
“I was just able to relax more,” Raphael said. “I have been coming to practice and taking some extra cuts, and I hopefully will be able to capitalize with people on base.”