Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Softball set to escape cold, snow for season-opening tournament

Jennifer Krueger slaps a base hit against Notre Dame. Krueger and UW will begin play this weekend in Arizona.[/media-credit]

While most students at the University of Wisconsin are forced to deal with the cold weather, the UW softball team begins its spring schedule this weekend in Tempe, Ariz., at the ASU Kajikawa Classic.

With four of the six games against teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season, it will be a good test to see how Wisconsin measures up against elite competition right off the bat.

“These are some of our harder games of the entire year actually,” senior pitcher Letty Olivarez said. “This is our chance to go to bigger schools, like Arizona for instance, and play good schools that go out there.


“It’s always nice to be in warm weather, too, so we’re real excited to get there,” she added.

Among the participants in the tournament will be 2009 NCAA Champion and top-ranked Washington as well as No. 4 Arizona and No. 7 Arizona State, both of which were 2009 Women’s College World Series participants.

Despite the high level of play on their opening weekend, the Badgers feel they are definitely ready for the challenge.

“We’ve been practicing for weeks upon weeks, and we’re all just itching to get out there,” junior centerfielder Jennifer Krueger said. “To play on a real field, with real dirt and real grass, and get off of the turf.”

Following its first tournament, the team will also be traveling to tournaments at Miami (FL), Santa Barbara, San Diego and Stillwater, Oklahoma, then beginning regular game play and conference action.

When asked whether they get a chance to relax and enjoy the warmer weather away from Wisconsin at these tournaments, Olivarez noted the opportunities were there, but limited.

“We get to spend some nights with our families, but for the most part, it’s just softball,” she said. “But it’s really not a bad thing; as long as we’re in warm weather and getting away from freezing here.”

The positive outlook carries through to the rest of the season as well.

“I’m excited, we have a bunch of new girls this year, and we’re all getting along really well,” Olivarez said. “We are excited to go out and play hard, and I’m just excited to see what we’re going to bring out there.”

The Badgers will feature a very young lineup this season, with freshmen accounting for half of the roster. Infielder Katie Soderberg and Olivarez, the Badgers’ most experienced pitcher, are the team’s lone seniors this season and will play large roles in leading Wisconsin. Still, they don’t feel the team’s youth is a weakness.

“Honestly, there aren’t any disadvantages,” Olivarez said. “The girls are coming in ready to play, and they’re even pushing the older girls. I feel like we’ve all gotten along better and that everyone has benefited from it.”

“Being a freshman, I would say it makes it easier for the older girls too,” freshman third baseman Shannel Blackshear said. “We’re all really passionate about playing and we want to compete with each other. I think it makes the older girls step up, and we want to step up with them too.”

When asked about the challenges of handling the rigor of a more than 50-game season, Krueger said the team is ready for it.

“All the work that we have done in the offseason is preparing us to play 60 games,” she said. “We’re in shape, and strong. The practices during the season are more just getting us ready for the next game.”

Olivarez echoed her teammate’s sentiments.

“We’ve been working at it ever since we’ve gotten back to school,” Olivarez said. “We’ve been working hard in the weight room and working hard on the field five to six days a week. We’ve gotten stronger, and I feel that our pitching has improved.

“And now I feel like we actually have girls this year that are able to compete with each other, and compete for their own spot.”

According to Krueger, the team has a much better outlook on the season than in years past, which she believes could also help them improve on back-to-back 15-40 seasons.

“I feel like we’re all committed to get the job done, too,” she said. “This year we’re all so positive, and I think we have a better atmosphere than we’ve had in years past.”

Big Ten play is still months away, but it’s never too soon to look at the Badgers’ chances in the conference. In response to who might be the toughest teams in the Big Ten this season, Olivarez quickly replied that they had to “just prepare for everyone.”

Sounding more like a senior than a freshman, Blackshear responded with a similar answer.

“In college softball, I don’t think any team is easy,” she said. “No matter who you play, you have to come ready. Anybody can beat you on any day.”

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