ORLANDO, Fla. – If this weekend was supposed to be a replicate of Big Ten play this season, the Badgers set the right example to duplicate.
Sweeping the three-day Diamond 9 tournament with three wins over both George Southern (7-7) and Boston University (1-4), Wisconsin (10-1) is suddenly off to the best start in program history.
“It is always exciting to win games and it is great to have a fast start,” head coach Yvette Healy said in an email. “We all know, though, it’s not how you start, it is how you finish. We are happy for this group, it is fun to make a little bit of history, but we are staying focused on what happens now as we keep going.”
Junior standout pitcher Cassandra Darrah set the tone in the first game of the tournament, throwing UW’s first no-hitter since 2001, shutting out Georgia Southern in a 3-0 victory. Darrah pitched the Badgers to three wins over the weekend, increasing her perfect record on the mound to 6-0.
Eager to keep up with their No. 1, the Badgers’ other pitchers turned in solid performances of their own, as senior Meghan McIntosh went 2-0 over the weekend and freshman Taylor Paige-Stewart recorded a seven-inning shutout over Georgia Southern in a 4-0 win Saturday and also recorded a save on the weekend.
“I felt pretty good out there,” McIntosh said following her win over Boston University Friday. “I had good run support with my offense. I hit my spots and the defense played great.”
Wisconsin’s offense also provided the pitching all the run support it could need, roughing up Georgia Southern’s reigning Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year Sarah Purvis for a loss and 10 hits in her two appearances against the Badgers.
The results were no different against Whitney Tuthill, BU’s second team all-conference pitcher in 2012, sending the senior to two losses on the weekend after recording a combined 21 hits in the 12 innings the team faced her.
“We faced phenomenal pitching all weekend and our offense really was impressive,” Healy said. “I think it’s the most impressive offensive weekend I’ve seen in a long time to face quality pitching like that.”
The Badgers were led offensively by the hot bat of junior outfielder Mary Massei, who went 12-for-21 from the plate in the six games with nine RBIs from the leadoff position.
Massei currently leads the team with a .525 batting average on the season, with 17 RBIs and an incredible .950 slugging percentage.
It was an impressive feat for Healy and Wisconsin, as the coach and her players had linked the format of the tournament’s three games against each opponent as extremely similar to Big Ten conference play.
Wisconsin started off the tournament Friday with a 3-0 win over Georgia Southern and a 11-3 five-inning win over Boston University. Darrah struck out nine and walked three in her no-hitter against the Eagles while McIntosh gave up four hits and two scores over five innings of solid work in the win against the Terriers.
“In the Big Ten we’re going to play three games and we’re going to have to double up on some teams,” junior infielder Michelle Mueller said following Friday night’s pair of wins. “Having both pitchers get wins today was really big.”
Saturday was no different, as Wisconsin dominated Boston University once again for a 9-1 win behind another solid Darrah outing and a 4-for-5, two RBI effort from Massei.
After that, the Badgers kept on rolling with a tough 4-0 win over the Eagles. Stewart gave up just five hits and four walks scattered over a seven-inning shutout. UW benefitted from the long ball, as seniors Shannel Blackshear and Whitney Massey hit home runs off of Eagles’ pitcher Allie Miles, two of the Badgers’ eight hits in the game.
Sunday saw Darrah and Purvis toe the rubber once again, this time with Darrah giving up four earned runs. But, the Wisconsin offense came to the rescue after their junior ace gave up three runs in the first inning.
Trailing for the first time all weekend, the Badgers gradually chipped away at the lead, scoring a run in the top of the second and reclaiming the lead in the top of the sixth with a three run frame, helping seal a 6-4 win.
In the final game of the tournament, McIntosh shut down BU with a complete game, giving up just one run on three hits and a walk, as the Badgers walked away perfect on the weekend after the 5-1 win.
Wisconsin is currently riding a nine-game win streak, tied for the tops in program history. The wins over the weekend were also over quality opponents, as both Georgia Southern and Boston University made the NCAA tournament last year.
“We all know it’s not how you start it’s how you finish,” Healy said following the last game of the tournament. “We’re happy for this group. It’s fun to make a little bit of history, but we’re staying focused on what happens now as we keep going.”