UW hopes to bounce back against NIU

first_imgJennifer Kreuger (4) is one steal away from tying the Wisconsin mark for stolen bases in a season.[/media-credit]After being thrashed by both thunderstorms and a ranked Michigan team over the weekend, the University of Wisconsin softball team faces nonconference foe Northern Illinois Wednesday.The game marks the end of a nine-game homestand in which the Badgers have gone just 1-7.In Northern Illinois, Wisconsin faces a different opponent than it has the past few weeks. After a one-week stretch where the Badgers struggled against some of the Big Ten’s best pitchers, they get some relief facing a Huskies pitching staff with a combined 6.31 ERA.“See, that scares me because traditionally, we don’t do well against [weak pitching]. Good pitching we handle,” UW head coach Chandelle Schulte said. “But I think we may have turned a corner in that, the last couple weeks at practice, I just see [the UW players] in a whole different zone.”Schulte’s apprehension about playing a 14-33 NIU team may be warranted. Earlier in the season, Wisconsin split series with North Dakota and Indiana, who at the time had just 2 and 4 total wins, respectively.“Good teams play at a high level all the time. … Teams that struggle, like we are, play at their opponent’s level,” Schulte said. “If we fix that, we’re gonna have a lot more wins.”The Huskies on paper are a much better matchup for the Badgers than UW’s recent opponents. NIU is just 2-17 in away games and 5-24 in nonconference matches.UW freshman Karla Powell said she doesn’t expect the team’s intensity to let up against NIU.“Coming off a big win against Minnesota and playing well against Ohio State and then going into tomorrow, I think we’re going to do really well,” Powell said. “Our confidence is up, we had a great practice today with a lot of hitting, so I think everyone’s ready for tomorrow and to get some runs on the board.”If the Badgers can manage to score some runs, UW pitcher Leah Vanevenhoven looks to have an advantage. Northern Illinois’ offense is nearly as weak as Wisconsin’s, with the Huskies averaging 3.13 runs per game to the Badgers’ 2.15. NIU has just a .218 team batting average and no regular players hit over .275.Vanevenhoven will make her sixth consecutive start and hopes to lower her 3.46 ERA against an NIU team that’s just 1-4 against UW in its history, including 0-2 at Madison.“Hopefully it will be nice [to] get some better control on some of my pitches and just throw my game and see if they can hit it,” Vanevenhoven said. “It’s a little bit more relaxing going in knowing that it’s not Michigan, it’s not Ohio State, Illinois. Teams that like, you leave anything in close, you’re screwed.”The Huskies’ best hitters this season have been sophomore Andrea Colosimo and Bailey Ouellette. Colosimo leads the team with a .275 average, while Ouellette has a team-high five home runs and 23 RBI.Both teams have base stealing threats in UW’s Jen Krueger and NIU’s Jenna Roberts. The pair are tied with 18 steals on the season. Krueger is one steal away from tying the Wisconsin single-season record for stolen bases.“Hopefully I will. I mean, if I get on base [I could do it],” Krueger said of tying the record.Krueger still leads the Badgers with a .316 batting average and .389 on base percentage. Powell is second on the team with a .248 average, though she went hitless in the Michigan series as she battles a shoulder injury.Wisconsin will try to improve its offensive stats against Northern Illinois pitchers Morgan Bittner and Joreigh Landers. Bittner has a 4.84 ERA, while Landers owns a 7.63 ERA and allows opponents to hit .333 off of her.“We all have pretty good confidence going into it, so we just have to keep [the intensity] up,” Krueger said.Schulte is adamant that Wisconsin doesn’t let down against Northern Illinois like it did earlier in the season against North Dakota and Indiana. The teams are evenly matched in many ways, and both squads dealt with long losing streaks. NIU had a 12-game losing streak, while UW topped out at 11.If the Badgers can avoid playing to their opponent’s level, many of the players said a win over the beatable Huskies team could provide some momentum going into the last week of the season.“It’s crazy — we only have seven games left. Hopefully we’re able to do our thing and go into the rest of the Big Ten season confident,” Vanevenhoven said.last_img read more