Badgers’ season opens under sun

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin softball team touched down in the Arizona desert yesterday, and will open up its season Friday afternoon against some of the nation’s best — preseason No.1 Arizona and No. 5 Arizona State.After weeks of practicing inside the McClain Center, the Badgers are eager to get back on the dirt.”I think we’ve prepared enough that we’re ready to go physically,” said senior outfielder Samantha Polito. “We just have to see how we take it out on the field mentally.”The psychological aspects of the demanding three-day event may prove to be the deciding factor for UW. But even with a weekend more comparable to the labors of Hercules than a typical early-season tournament, head coach Chandelle Schulte knows that in the long run, the experience should be beneficial.”It’s a double-edged sword,” Schulte said. “If we get blown out it may not be a good thing, but eventually it will help us.”In an age where schedule fluffing in the early-going is standard practice in collegiate athletics, Wisconsin sure seems to be taking a completely opposite approach, playing five top-tier teams in three days.The Badgers will open up its season with a doubleheader, playing Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State Friday.Then Saturday, the Badgers will play Florida before matching up against Arizona State. ASU is led by sophomore outfielder Kaitlin Cochran, who along with junior pitcher and teammate Katie Burkhart, are early National Collegiate Player of the Year candidates. Cochran, a first team All-America selection one year ago, batted .437 to go along with 17 homers and 61 RBIs.The Badgers will wrap up the tournament Sunday when they face the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats, who also possess four legitimate Player of the Year candidates in catcher Callista Balko, shortstop Kristie Fox, outfielder Caitlin Lowe and pitcher Taryne Mowatt, who amassed 21 wins last season to complement a 1.28 ERA.”We’re all pretty excited about an opportunity to play against them,” Polito said. “But we’re just going to go out there like it’s any other game. The name on the shirt doesn’t matter, just the girls out on the field.”Though along with a No. 1 ranking and such high expectations comes additional pressure, an area in which Schulte says UW has a decided advantage over UA.”They’re pretty flawless,” Schulte said. “But we have nothing to lose, and they do, so that’s the approach we’re taking. We’re certainly capable of holding our own. “[And] they have one of the best pitchers in the country. … You just can’t play afraid because really, they’re that good.”This year, success for UW will ride heavily on the right arm of senior pitcher Eden Brock, who will likely see a heavy workload this weekend.Brock, who tossed a no-hitter against UW-Parkside last fall, is confident that if the Badgers stick to their game plan, they just might be able to run the gauntlet.”We’re playing some really good competition,” Brock said. “[These are] some of the top teams in the nation, but I think staying relaxed under pressure, working on fundamentals and making the plays we can make will help us get through it.””[Brock] has proven herself,” Schulte said. “Eden’s our No. 1 right now and is going to be the one that we go to.”Leading the way in the field is Polito, who along with junior catcher Joey Daniels, was named Wisconsin’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year last season after leading the team with a batting average of .324. Daniels was second on the squad at .322.Much of UW’s power will come in the form of junior outfielder Katie Hnatyk, who has smashed 19 home runs in her first two years as a Badger, which puts her only one shy of Wisconsin’s career record, held by Kris Zacher and Boo Gillette.last_img

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