Pitcher Letty Olivarez and the softball team hope to get their first Big Ten wins today against Iowa.[/media-credit]Following a 2-2 weekend split at Goodman Diamond against Penn State and South Dakota State, the Wisconsin softball team welcomes the Iowa Hawkeyes to Madison today for a doubleheader.Despite still looking for its first Big Ten win, senior pitcher Letty Olivarez maintains that the team is not too down on itself, stressing that the team plays for each other and reminding the younger players they have great things to build for in the future.“We always remind them that this game is bigger than ourselves, we play for the ‘W’,” Olivarez said. “You have to think about yourself and play with your heart, that’s what it all really comes down to, the love of the game and whether you win or lose, just give all you got.”Even though this year’s 10-22 record is comparable to last year’s, UW head coach Chandelle Schulte hopes the experience the eight freshmen on the team gain will help build future success.“I think it does resemble last year in record, but it doesn’t in that we have so many new kids that are young and have talent,” Schulte said. “They’re just getting their feet wet, there are a couple of them who have really bright futures.”The Badgers are winless so far in conference play with an 0-6 mark, while the Hawkeyes are second in conference standings with a record of 6-1. In addition, Iowa is thought of as a balanced team, comprised of solid pitching and hitting.“They’re tough, they’re a very Midwestern team,” Schulte said. “They just grind it out, I don’t think they have superstars, they have kids who just get it done.”When talking about the Hawkeyes, Schulte was very complimentary and talked about them as the kind of team she wants her own to emulate.Iowa is a prototypical Big Ten softball team, playing its first 24 games on the road, specializing in slap bunts and putting the ball in play. They pride themselves on superior coaching and attention to the fundamentals. However, the Hawkeyes, unlike this year’s Badgers, have had success not only in conference play, but in non-conference tournaments as well.Additionally, Iowa has a balanced lineup in terms of lefties and righties, making the lineup even more formidable.Olivarez, who will receive the ball for one of today’s games, isn’t overly frightened of Iowa, but realizes the lineup’s potential to put some big offensive numbers on the board if the Badgers aren’t careful.“They’re good, they have a good mix of lefties in there, so we’re just trying to prepare and hopefully not get beat on the short game,” Olivarez said. “We’re gonna try to get them outside or have them pop it up.”Iowa’s lineup features some of the best power hitters in the conference, including second baseman Chelsea Carmody, who leads the team with a batting average of .366, six home runs and 21 RBIs. Her blend of speed and power makes for a very difficult out.“She’s a triple threat, she can do it all,” Schulte said. “We’re gonna mix it up for her, so she will not be able to get into a routine there, [but]…truth be told, to be successful we need to keep her off the basepaths.”A focus in practice all week has been playing the short game and hitting with runners in scoring position, two problems that have plagued the Badgers all season.“We’ve been working a lot on bunts and hopefully stepping up our short game, especially with our lefties [who have] been trying hard to see the ball and get it down,” Olivarez said. “We’re just gonna try to poke things through, hopefully we can get one hit here and that can lead to another.”The team also tries to stay positive and hungry, and the players genuinely feel they can turn this season and this program around.“I’m excited, I don’t feel any pressure,” freshman third baseman Shannel Blackshear said after belting Goodman Diamond’s first home run of the season Sunday. “I don’t know, now that were in the Big Ten, I’m just ready to play all these teams, and you never know which way it’s gonna go.”However, a sense of urgency is certainly felt by the coaching staff to pick up the first conference win of the season.“It’s a monkey on your back, were not focusing on it, but we certainly all know it’s there,” Schulte said.
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