September 17, 2020
UW senior Leah Vanevenhoven will look to pitch the Badgers to a win against Big Ten opponent Iowa.[/media-credit]With the regular season wrapping up, the University of Wisconsin softball team will travel to Iowa City to take on Iowa in what will be its final away series of the season.The Badgers are on a relative hot streak, winning two of their last three games, and were it not for a walk off homerun from Michigan State, the Badgers would have won their last three Big Ten games. The three-game winning streak over Big Ten opponents would have matched their current number of wins within the conference as they sit at 3-13. Nonetheless, recent success gives them reason to be optimistic.The Hawkeyes (38-14, 9-7 Big Ten) will provide a formidable challenge for Wisconsin. Iowa has developed a strange trend throughout their season, as they tend to win and lose games in bunches. Following a winning streak of four in early April, they lost two in a row to Big Ten power Northwestern, then went on to win five more in a row over Michigan State and Indiana, and are currently riding a three game losing streak. Wisconsin will seek to maintain the Hawkeyes’ losing streak and extend it to five.Senior Leah Vanevenhoven’s 2-7 record within Big Ten play during the second half of the season doesn’t allude to the resurgence she has experienced in the circle. The number of wins doesn’t tell the whole story about how strong Vanevenhoven has played lately especially with the absence of the other Badger starter Letty Olivarez due to illness. Within conference play the senior has a 3.61 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 62 innings and has held opponents to a meager .231 batting average.“I only have a couple games left, and I’m just trying to make the best of them,” Vanevenhoven said.It is no coincidence that since April 22, when the Badgers defeated rival Minnesota to curtail their 11-game losing streak, UW has allowed four hits or fewer an impressive five times in seven games. Of those five games, Vanevenhoven started every single one. It is also no coincidence that this is Vanevenhoven’s senior year, and there’s nothing she wants more than to leave her program with a strong finish.“We play some tough teams now, so I really need to be at the top of my game and I think you know I realize that [it’s my last year]. I’m excited — bring on the challenge,” Vanevenhoven said.“I think it’s just determination — she wants to leave here feeling like she gave everything she has to give,” head coach Chandelle Schulte added. “I’ve seen Leah work harder this year than I ever have, and it’s paid off.”Also coming on strong of late has been the play of freshman Karla Powell. In the April 22 game versus Minnesota, she effectively yanked the monkey off the team’s back by driving in the game-winning run to beat Minnesota 2-1. Her headfirst dive into first gave the Badgers the victory and also propelled their recent late-season charge. After not playing the first game of last weekend’s series against Michigan State due to a shoulder injury, Powell proved her bat is a necessary force within the Badger lineup. She responded by going 3-3 with two RBI’s and scored a run of her own, though the Badgers still lost on a walk off two-run home run by the Spartan’s Kara Weigle.“That kid just loves softball, and she’s a ballplayer,” Schulte said of Powell. “She’s huge for our future I think.”The potent Hawkeye offense boasts six hitters with averages of .323 or higher, all of whom have on base percentages near .400. Their best hitter, Colleen McGlaughlin, is hitting .368 on the year with nine home runs and 48 RBI’s. In the circle the Hawkeyes have a tandem of two pitchers, Brittany Well and Amanda Zust, who each have 16 or more wins, and have ERA’s under 1.81.“If we can lay off their rise ball, depending on what the zone is, we’ll have some success,” Schulte said.