Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Badgers ready for Big Ten

After playing the first 21 games on the road, the Wisconsin softball team got a chance to play in front of its home crowd Tuesday.

But now the Badgers are back on the road and ready to begin the Big Ten season.

"It's nice to play at home always, because it's your field and you have your home fans there," UW senior pitcher Eden Brock said. "We're kind of used to (being on the road) right now, so I don't think it presents much of a challenge."

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In the first stretch of the season, the Badgers went 16-7, including a 6-4 record in games against teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament last year. They also competed against two nationally ranked teams in the ASU Kajikawa Classic, losing 2-0 to No. 5 Arizona and 4-1 to top-ranked Arizona.

Unlike the games played up to this point in the season, the Big Ten competition brings with it a sense of familiarity in terms of the team's opponents.

"Going into the Big Ten, we know the teams so well," junior outfielder Katie Hnatyk said. "We know the position players and pitchers and what their best pitches are. We know a lot about the hitters. The knowledge we have of other teams is a lot greater in the Big Ten."

Wisconsin's first Big Ten competition starts with games against Penn State Friday and Saturday. The Nittany Lions come in to this weekend's matchup with a modest 14-12 record on the season, but they have played some formidable opponents early on.

"I see a really good team," UW head coach Chandelle Schulte said. "(Their record) is deceiving. When I look at all the Big Ten schedules, they've played the most difficult one so far."

Penn State has already upset two top-10 teams, knocking off No. 8 Texas and No. 9 Michigan, proving a team's record may not necessarily have any indication on the outcome of a game.

"I think it's true for all of the Big Ten teams," Schulte said. "It's a dogfight. Anybody can beat anybody. Hopefully we've played a schedule that will help us prepare for that and also have a little confidence. You really don't know until the first pitch is thrown what's going to happen. It's that competitive."

One of the lone bright spots for the Lions — who are near the bottom of the conference in pitching, but are the fourth-best hitting team in the Big Ten — is outfielder Danielle Kinley, who is hitting at a .427 clip.

"She's on fire for them," Schulte said. "There's a couple kids in every lineup that you don't want to lose the game to. You have to make sure that you don't give her a pitch to hit. We have to make sure that we take care of the situations before her so that she doesn't come up with runners on."

Moving on, the Badgers will travel to Columbus for a doubleheader as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently 17-13.

OSU's Jamee Juarez has a 1.78 ERA, putting her just ahead of UW's Brock, whose earned run average is 1.88.

Buckeyes catcher Sam Marder leads the conference in walks, with 31, and second baseman Nycole Koyano is second in the Big Ten with five triples.

Wisconsin is currently riding a four-game winning streak, including a come-from-behind win this past Tuesday against Loyola. With the Big Ten season set to get underway, Schulte and her team must be able to learn from their previous games.

"You can't be complacent," Schulte said. "You have to work hard every inning, and be in every inning emotionally. I think we learned (Tuesday) that you can't wait until the sixth inning to get that started."

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