Big fly. Round-tripper. Salami. Tater. Those are just a few colorful synonyms for a home run, which played a big part in the Wisconsin softball team’s weekend sweep of Big Ten rival Ohio State at Goodman Diamond. Thanks to three timely home runs, the Badgers pulled off 7-6 and 3-1 wins Saturday – with the former coming in 10 innings – and a 4-2 win Sunday.
With the sweep, the Badgers (33-9 overall, 10-5 Big Ten) moved into sole possession of third place in the Big Ten standings, and now sit only one win away from tying their season total from a year ago.
After leading the final three and a half innings of the first game Saturday, the Buckeyes (27-17, 6-9) surrendered three runs to Wisconsin in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Wisconsin’s leading hitter stepped into the box just looking for a way to reach base.
“Really, I was just in the zone in that at-bat. I wasn’t thinking about ending the game right away or anything like that. I just wanted to get on base and hopefully someone else could hit me in, so we could end that game,” junior right fielder Mary Massei said.
But instead of reaching base, Massei drilled a shot over the centerfield fence to give the Badgers the come-from-behind victory.
“Always having a walk-off hit is pretty exciting, but having it be a home run also–it’s amazing,” Massei said.
Wisconsin’s long-ball prowess wasn’t the only aspect on display during the three games as the pitching staff, composed of senior Meghan McIntosh and junior Cassandra Darrah, put together three strong performances.
Other than the fourth inning of the first game, in which Darrah gave up five runs, she and McIntosh combined to give up only two earned runs in the 23 other innings of work.
Head coach Yvette Healy was impressed with her two pitchers’ resiliency during the course of the weekend, which included Darrah tossing 10 innings of six-hit ball in the first game.
“They did a good job mixing speed, keeping them off balance, throwing both sides of the plate,” Healy said. “I think that was the number one thing that I saw that I think [pitching coach Tracie Adix] has really instilled in them. [Darrah and McIntosh] were just tough pitchers and even if there were errors behind them or any little adversity, the pitchers really muscled through, so I was really proud of that.”
After the exciting finish in game one, McIntosh scattered six hits in the second game Saturday and struck out four to hold the Buckeyes to one unearned run. Her strong showing led Healy to go with her hot hand for start in the finale Sunday afternoon.
Although Healy’s plan was to have both pitchers split the game, McIntosh came out strong and ended up completing all seven innings while yielding only four hits to Ohio State.
Senior catcher Whitney Massey witnessed all three pitching performances from behind home plate, citing how McIntosh looked just as good Sunday, even though the Buckeyes had seen her in back-to-back games.
“Actually, everything was working really well behind the plate today,” Massey said. “I think [the Buckeyes] were just a little bit more prepared. They just saw [McIntosh] in the second game last night. I think they were just ready to come out swinging. They didn’t want [us] to get the sweep.”
Massey noted McIntosh was most effective in keeping OSU off balance when her changeup was finding the strike zone with consistency.
Massey not only played a pivotal role behind the plate, but standing next to it as well. After Ohio State tied Sunday’s game in the top of the sixth inning, Massey was the one who promptly untied it in the bottom of the same inning.
Earlier in the game, in the third inning, Massei had homered, which was the Badgers’ only run and hit in the game by the time the sixth inning rolled around. Massei came up second in the sixth and reached by way of a single, giving Wisconsin its second hit. Senior outfielder Kendall Grimm then walked, which set up Massey for what proved to be the game-winner. With one strike on her, Massey crushed a ball deep over the left field fence, emptying the bases and giving the Badgers a 4-1 lead.
The Buckeyes would get one run back in the top of the seventh, but the home runs and dominating pitching by Wisconsin came together and solidified its first Big Ten sweep of the season.
“Ohio State is just a phenomenal program in every sport, so if you can get wins against them, it’s a big deal. For us right now, the sweep was a nice boost,” Healy said.