Relaxed practice helped get monkey off back

first_imgStill without a conference win coming into the weekend, several members of the Wisconsin softball team began to show some frustration last week.Although head coach Chandelle Schulte maintained the players had not been talking about it, it is hard to imagine a 0-8 conference start was well-accepted by the players.“I think we’re a little frustrated; we feel like we haven’t taken opportunities,” Schulte said after concluding practice on Monday. “This is a long home stand, so there’s definitely some added pressure to start picking up some Big Ten wins. It’s a monkey on your back — we’re not focusing on it, but we certainly we all know it’s there.”After losing two more conference games to Iowa in Wednesday’s doubleheader, the team began to look to this weekend as it prepared to host conference opponent Purdue, the first conference team the Badgers have played so far this year with a losing record.Sensing frustration from the team, the coaching staff decided to try something a little different for practice Friday.Senior pitcher Letty Olivarez described a play she and three other teammates had designed in what she called their “fantasy play” drill, where each player would try to conceive the craziest play possible.Her play, which involved teammates Shannel Blackshear and Kristyn Hansen, had Olivarez throwing the ball between her legs and Hansen with a cartwheeling bunt attempt.Friday’s more relaxed practice and the drill which Olivarez, Hansen and Blackshear seemed to have championed, appeared to have paid off Saturday when the team recorded its first conference win of the year.Overall, the Badgers earned a split for the weekend, winning 3-0 on Saturday and losing 5-1 yesterday.Led by one of the strongest pitching performances of the season by Olivarez and clutch hitting by Blackshear and Whitney Massey, the Badgers won their first conference win of the year, defeating the Boilermakers 3-0.Olivarez went the distance, pitching seven strong innings, giving up only an infield single, and striking out six.She complemented the game plan drawn up for the team, which included keeping speedsters Molly Garst and Liane Horiuchi off the base paths.“I kept everything on the corners, and that’s what we’ve been working on a lot lately, and I’ve been successful with it; that was my main goal,” added Olivarez. “They hacked at a lot of stuff, (and) I felt like they didn’t really know what was coming… (with) pretty good mix up with (our) pitches.”Garst and Horiuchi, who were a combined 62-of-65 on stolen base attempts coming into the series, both went 0-for-3 at the plate Saturday, which eliminated any stolen base threat.“That was one of our pitching goals,” Olivarez said. “It’s really exciting because those are the girls who are usually the fastest, and I know [Horiuchi] is pretty good at getting on base. That was one of our biggest goals, to get them out in some way.”In Sunday’s 5-1 loss, the script was reversed as both reached base once, and Horiuchi stole two bases, both of which came in the first inning.Horiuchi and Wisconsin catcher Maggie Strange got into a small battle within the game in the first inning as Horiuchi would run nearly halfway to third before being looked back to second base by Strange.“One of the biggest things about that is the delayed steal, you have to worry about that, [but] for me as a catcher you have to watch the angle of her body,” added Strange. “It’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game, so you have to play it by ear and see what happens.”Although the team employed the same strategy that had worked the previous day, Strange credited the Purdue hitters with adjusting to Olivarez’ pitching.Olivarez, who started both games in the series, was not nearly as effective in her second game and was replaced by freshman pitcher Meghan McIntosh in the fourth inning.Her ineffectiveness was not due to fatigue, but rather the Boilermaker hitters doing a better job of waiting for the pitches and not chasing balls as they had done the previous day.“They made adjustments,” Olivarez said following yesterday’s game. “They did a good job of expecting what I was going to throw at them.”last_img

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