Badgers set to play home opener

first_imgRiding a modest three-game winning streak, the Wisconsin softball team hopes to continue to ride its wave of early success Tuesday. The Badgers (15-7, third in the Big Ten) will play host for the first time this season when they take on the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago (4-11).UW head coach Chandelle Schulte knows LUC is no pushover, despite a record that might indicate otherwise.”They were 4-11 last week, but they played a very difficult schedule including [then No. 14] UCLA,” Schulte said. “But honestly, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just about how we play. If we show up, we’ll be fine. If we don’t, we’ll be in trouble.”In addition to UCLA, Loyola’s early-season schedule read like a veritable who’s who of collegiate softball talent and included losses to No. 17 Florida, No. 12 Stanford and No. 17 Illinois State, as well as defeats to traditional powerhouses California and Cal State-Fullerton.Offensively, the Ramblers are led by infielder Kat Krause, who was recently named the Horizon League Female Scholar-Athlete of the Week. Krause is hitting .308 on the year and has nine RBIs to lead the team. In Loyola’s most recent series against Illinois State, Krause combined to go 4-for-5 at the plate, with a homer and five RBIs. Not only does the junior hit for average, but she can also hit the long ball. In a little more than two full seasons, Krause has already broken Loyola’s career home run mark (17).As powerful as Krause is at the plate, no one in the Big Ten has been quite as good at circling the bases as UW junior outfielder Katie Hnatyk. She leads the Big Ten in slugging percentage (.853) and home runs (9). In fact, Hnatyk has been so prolific this season that she is just two dingers away from tying UW’s single-season record set by Anastasia Miller two years ago, and the season is not even at the halfway point. Truth be told, the team as a whole has seen a power surge, as it has 24 round-trippers in 22 games.While the Badger bats have crushed balls at a record pace, the pitchers have certainly brought their stuff to the circle. Over the past seven games — five wins — UW pitchers have allowed just eight earned runs (1.14 ERA), compared to the 24 runs given up by the Badgers’ opponents.A major reason why has been the performances of senior hurler Eden Brock. During that stretch of seven games, she has accumulated 34 strikeouts and a miniscule 0.51 ERA in 27.2 innings. She’ll certainly be a tall order for the Ramblers to overcome. And if recent history is any indication, Brock and the Badgers will walk away with another victory Tuesday.”They’re a good team,” Brock said. “We were successful against them in the past so I feel that we have the capability to do the same thing now.”Wisconsin is 19-1-1 all time against Loyola, including two wins a year ago in a day-night doubleheader. The Badgers won the first contest 6-5 and blanked the Ramblers 12-0 in game two.last_img