When it comes to losing, Wisconsin has a short memory.
Rebounding from Tuesday’s disappointment against Notre Dame, the Badgers swept Thursday’s doubleheader with North Dakota, recording 5-0 and 7-0 shutouts.
The Badgers’ sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh (7-8) drew all eyes on her way to dominating the nightcap with a shutout. McIntosh started off hot and never looked back, pitching all seven innings while recording a new career best in strikeouts with 13.
“I think it was a huge day for her,” head coach Yvette Healy said. “She had a tough time on Tuesday; we had a lot of meetings with her on how we could support her further. She responded great, she was looking to her coaches to help her out and she came back strong.”
“Today means a lot to us because it showed the kind of character Meghan has,” sophomore infielder Shannel Blackshear said. “It gives us the opportunity to be loose at the plate because we were never in situations where we were fighting from behind.”
While the young Wisconsin arm gritted through two jams in the fifth and the seventh, the Badger bats provided all the run support McIntosh could desire.
Fighting Sioux pitcher Emma Gronseth (2-10) was treated to an old fashioned Badger beatdown. Wisconsin enforced its will upon the Sioux, scoring in every inning but the first and seventh.
It was a Badger offense Healy has expected to see all season.
“I think the offense bolsters our pitchers; Meghan responded great with that support behind her,” Healy said. “This is how Badger softball should be.”
In the second inning, the Badgers began their eventual rout with a Kendall Grimm triple followed by an RBI sacrifice fly to left by Whitney Massey.
The next two innings were all about Stephanie Peace.
The Wisconsin freshman infielder from San Antonio, Texas, treated the Sioux to some southern hospitality, hitting an RBI single in the third and a three-run bomb over the left field wall with two outs in the fourth to seal the deal. Peace’s mom even made the flight up to Madison to witness her daughter’s breakout performance.
Peace, who has been interchangeable throughout the Badger lineup, seems to have finally found a home in the two spot for Wisconsin.
“It’s great for the coaches to respect me, moving me around like that,” Peace said. “I just wanted to come in and help the team the best I could. Coach Healy was preaching to us of doing all the little things right, and I think today we finally did that.”
The first game of the day told the same story as the second, as freshman ace Cassandra Darrah (11-5) silenced the Sioux with six scoreless innings of work in a 5-0 win. Surrendering only two hits throughout the game, Darrah made it look easy as she seared the plate with corner fastballs on her way to silencing the Sioux with seven strikeouts.
“She was tremendous on the mound today,” Healy said. “She’s had a couple of hard-luck losses in the Big Ten and had to play a few in a row. She’s been sitting on 10 wins for a while; I’m glad she can finally get off that number.”
Offensively, the Badgers struggled early to bring runs across the plate. An RBI single by Massey in the bottom of the second and a Grimm RBI double in the fourth helped the Badgers, but it looked as if Darrah would carry the Badgers to victory alone as the Badgers managed two runs in the first five innings. Then, Blackshear stepped to the plate.
The power hitting third baseman gave Darrah all the run support she would need when she connected on her sixth home run of the season. Even with winds blowing in, the towering three-run drive over the left field wall sealed the deal, putting Wisconsin up 5-0.
“We’re a young team, and everyone’s trying to get these hits,” Blackshear said. “Today showed we have power up and down the lineup; we’re all going to swing the bat no matter how we’re playing.”
The young Badgers continue to surpass expectations, recording the first back-to-back shutout victories in program history since April 2006.
With the complete wins showing UW’s vast potential, Healy and the Badgers already have their sights set on a weekend series with Northwestern.
“We’re going to have to do something special to beat them,” Healy said. “We may need to even play above our capabilities. This is the best I’ve ever seen our team play mid-week. Everyone’s feeling good right now, and we’re at home. We have what it takes to surprise some people.”