UW to face No. 6 Wolverines

first_imgVanevenhoven and the Wisconsin softball team hope to continue to improve against Michigan.[/media-credit]The University of Wisconsin softball team finally broke an 11-game losing streak with a win over Minnesota Wednesday. Their reward is two games with No. 6/No. 9 Michigan this weekend.Wisconsin (13-33, 2-10 Big Ten) faces one of its toughest opponents yet in Michigan (32-9, 8-2 Big Ten). UM is the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the polls — mainly because it doesn’t give up runs.“I would say we need to play nearly perfect to win, which is doable,” UW head coach Chandelle Schulte said.The Wolverines rank near the top of the Big Ten in almost all pitching and defensive categories. That includes being first in ERA with a team mark of 1.15, as well as strikeouts with 411. UM has also issued the fewest walks in the conference and committed the fewest errors.The Badgers aren’t new to facing elite pitching, taking on two Ohio State starters last weekend with ERAs under 2.00 and a Minnesota pitcher leading the nation in strikeouts.“Our thing is going to be [to] put it into play, like we did against Ohio State, like we did against Minnesota, against the better pitchers we face,” Schulte said. “Make [the defense] make plays.”Third baseman Theresa Boruta, who went 3-for-7 against the Wolverines in 2008, agreed.“It’s just putting pressure on their ‘D’ — they’re definitely a beatable team,” Boruta said. “When we set the table — the slappers set the table — we have confidence in our other hitters to bring us in, so that’s something we have to do.”Michigan uses a rotation of junior Nikki Nemitz (19-5, 0.78 ERA) and Jordan Taylor (13-4, 1.59 ERA). Nemitz is just one win away from her third consecutive 20-win season, while Taylor is the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.UW senior Leah Vanevenhoven (5-11, 3.32 ERA) will pitch at least one of the games for the Badgers after throwing 25 innings in the Badgers’ last three contests.“She’s a little tired, so we’ll see,” Schulte said of Vanevenhoven. “We’re going to do whatever single pitcher takes the win, or whatever combination of three or two it takes to compete. I could [need to] pull rabbits out of my hat.”Vanevenhoven said she’s up to the task of facing the two Wolverines aces.“It’s exciting. We always seem to do better against better pitchers,” Vanevenhoven said. “I’m not intimidated by Michigan and I don’t think any of my teammates are. We’re just ready to go out there and play.”Standing in her way is UM’s Amanda Chidester. The freshman leads the team in hitting with a .397/.444/.679 line to go with six home runs and 32 RBIs.While UW doesn’t have a masher like Chidester, they showed against Minnesota they can win without one. Center fielder Jen Krueger leads the Badgers with a .315 average, and with two more stolen bases, she could tie the UW single-season record for steals. Krueger scored the winning run on Wisconsin’s third infield hit of the inning during the walk-off victory Wednesday.“We’ve had two good weeks of offensive practice. Again, some timely hitting would help,” Schulte said. “We’re certainly coming around in that area, so that’s good.”The Badgers may need to excel in that area, as history suggests runs will be scarce. Michigan is 14-0 at Madison and averages 5.8 runs per game at Goodman Diamond. The Badgers managed only 2.35 runs per game against the Wolverines at home.Wisconsin also has a 12-game losing streak against Michigan dating back to 2002. UM leads the all time series 24-4, including 7-2 and 12-4 wins last year in Madison. The Wolverines currently own a 13-game win streak.In UW’s favor is the fact that it’s finally coming off of a win, as well as riding the hot streak of its pitcher.“I’ve just gotta keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep everything simple and take the momentum I’ve had the past couple of games and just go into the weekend confident,” Vanevenhoven said.“We’ve been playing decent ball, we could obviously be playing better,” Boruta said. “It’s nice to actually get a [win] on the board and bring that into an extremely big weekend against Michigan.”last_img