Having one of the Big Ten’s best pitchers in Cassandra Darrah has graced the Wisconsin Badgers this season with solid performances on the mound. With a 20-9 record and just a 2.16 earned run average in 172 innings pitched, Darrah has been the unquestioned work horse on the rubber for the Badgers.
However, Tuesday night was the same kind of dominance from a different name.
Junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh solidified her push as the Badgers’ consistent No. 2 pitcher, shutting down the Bradley Braves over seven complete innings, giving up just five hits while earning her sixth victory on the season, her fourth complete game and her first shut-out performance of the year.
For Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy, knowing that McIntosh can handle the pressure of working with a small lead gives her added comfort going forward.
“We needed every bit of her firepower,” Healy said. “She struck kids out and put a zero on the board. To throw a shutout is always special, but especially when we aren’t scoring many runs; she was clutch today.”
McIntosh did indeed have firepower, as the lefty showed off her velocity on unsuspecting Braves’ hitters, fanning four while only walking two. Although early in the game it looked like a struggle to locate her pitches, McIntosh eventually settled into her comfort zone, working twice to get out of jams with runners in scoring position.
“I was just really hitting my locations tonight,” McIntosh said. “Coach Healy said work on getting the ball down and let the defense work, I just worked on hitting my spots and let the ball go wherever it went.”
Although the runs didn’t come in the usual spades for the Badger bats, the Wisconsin offense was able to escape a lackluster performance thanks to McIntosh’s commanding performance.
The development and solid play of a pitcher at the No. 2 spot is incredibly important for the Badgers going forward. With Darrah throwing almost 100 more innings than McIntosh or sophomore pitcher Amanda Najdek, the development of another reliable arm on the Badgers’ staff could help give Darrah vital resting time, especially in these nonconference games.
“It’s amazing to have a staff,” sophomore Stephanie Peace said. “We love playing behind any of them and love giving them run support and we know they’re going to give us their best and we hope to do the same for them on offense.”
If the 2012 softball team at Wisconsin is marked by the theme of improvement, perhaps there is no better exemplifier of that theme than second baseman Whitney Massey. Massey, who hit just .233 from the plate in her sophomore campaign, has emerged as an All-Big Ten caliber player for Wisconsin.
Boasting one of the team’s best batting averages with a .350 mark, Massey is also a utility player in the infield for the Badgers, giving the team the benefit of a player who can play multiple positions.
But the .100-point increase in her batting average or the solid play in the field isn’t what was making headlines Tuesday night. Rather, it was one stat in particular: doubles.
With two doubles against Bradley, Massey has now hit 19 doubles on the season, a Wisconsin single-season record. The total also pushes Massey’s career double mark to 29, pushing her to the sixth highest career total in program history.
But when Massey steps on the diamond, she has something on her mind beyond just hitting her next extra base hit.
“This season started off really rough for me,” Massey said. “My grandpa passed away, he was very close to me and a big fan of softball. So basically, since I’ve come off of that I’ve just been thinking about him.”
Massey, who split time last season with Jordan Skinner starting at second base, has emerged into the everyday starter, batting incredibly consistently for the Badgers at the No. 3 spot in the batting order, driving in 32 RBIs, a team best.
“It’s fun to see her swinging the bat,” Healy said. “She’s a kid who works so hard. I’m just so pleased because she made a huge jump from last year to this year and that’s just a testament to all of her hard work. She’s a kid who really kicked it up a notch in finding her confidence and putting in the extra time.”
“You love to be playing beside someone who’s feeling so good about their game,” Peace said. “She’s excited, she’s put in the time, she’s worked hard and she deserves it. It shows in how focused she is before and during games and how pumped up she is.”