A fifth consecutive series sweep this past weekend puts the Wisconsin women’s softball team at 13 straight wins.
The team hosted Purdue University this weekend, a supposedly even match by the looks of the teams’ similar records. Despite coming off a series split with No. 3-ranked Michigan, the gold and black uniforms of the Boilermakers ended up being no match for the Badgers’ recent momentum.
In the first game following a three-up, three-down top of the first inning for Wisconsin pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart, junior Maria Van Abel scored the first run of the game when Michelle Mueller doubled, sending Van Abel around the bases. The RBI was Mueller’s 46th of the year, putting her nearly 20 ahead of any other player on the Wisconsin roster.
After another three innings without a single hit from the Boilermakers, Mueller stepped up to the plate again and smacked the ball over the wall for her 11th homer of the year, picking up a second run for UW, who was now leading 2-0 going into the fifth.
Purdue finally connected in the fifth when freshman Katy McJunkin doubled all the way out to the right field wall, but with two outs in the inning already, the rest of the squad failed to send her the rest of the way around the diamond.
McJunkin found redemption in the seventh inning, when, after reaching on a walk, she finally crossed home plate on a double by teammate Maia Monchek. Purdue failed to produce any additional runs, however, falling to the Badgers 2-1.
The Badgers looked to still be feeling good as the second half of Friday’s doubleheader started up, and began the game with a bang.
After keeping the Boilermakers at bay in the top of the first, UW wasted no time in picking up a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first. After Mueller found a gap on the left side of the field for a single, cleanup hitter Chloe Miller homered to left center for her eighth clout of the season. Next up was first baseman Stephanie Peace who drew a walk, found her way to second on a Purdue error, stole third and eventually completed the trek home as the ball got away from the third baseman, who was looking to get a tag. With Peace home safely, the Badgers finished off the first inning with a three-run cushion.
Purdue was quick to respond this time, batting in a run of its own in the top of the next inning. After back-to-back walks, outfielders Lindsey Rains and Maia Moncheck were occupying first and second base when second baseman Paris Andrew hit a sacrifice bunt, sending Rains to third who eventually touched home on a passed ball and put her team on the scoreboard to narrow the gap to 3-1.
After Wisconsin failed to tack on any more runs in the bottom of the second, Purdue capitalized in the third when third baseman Tori Chiodo led off the inning with a solo shot over the right field fence, her 10th so far this season.
After failing to respond in the bottom of the third, Wisconsin was looking to make up for lost ground in the fourth when sophomore Katie Christner and junior Megan Tancill led things off with a pair of singles. After Marissa Mersch walked, Mueller was due up again with bases loaded. The slugger flew out to center, but was still able to advance each runner one base, which resulted in Christner crossing home, putting the score at 4-2.
But four runs proved insufficient for a Badger win. In the top of the fifth, the Boilermakers’ third, fourth and fifth hitters kicked it up a notch as, after Chiodo and first baseman Ashley Burkhardt notched singles, catcher Danielle Fletcher homered to left field, bringing in three runs and taking the lead away from Wisconsin.
The Badgers weren’t about to back down, though. Peace led things off with a single, and eventually tied the score up off a Purdue fielding error when teammate Katie Christner was batting. Christner advanced to second base when Tancill singled to third, and finally touched home when teammate Mary Massei found a gap in right field, giving the lead back to UW. After the next two innings saw no change in score, the Badgers picked up their second win of the day, extending the winning streak to 12 games.
Wisconsin and Purdue met again Saturday afternoon to finish things off in the Senior Day game, as the Badgers looked to make some changes to their record book. With 12 straight wins at the time of the game, this year’s squad was only one win away from tying the school’s longest streak of 13, set in March of 2013.
After a scoreless first, Purdue changed things up by earning the first run when Fletcher picked up her 10th home run of the year when she hit one over the left field fence. The Boilermakers picked up a second run in the third when Rains, having reached on error, crossed home as Chiodo doubled to left field.
The Badgers finally hit their stride in the bottom of the same inning when Tancill started things off with a triple, scoring when Massei singled up the middle. Chloe Miller reached on a fielder’s choice a couple batters later, advancing Massei to third. With two runners on base, Peace connected for her eighth home run of the year, batting in her 19th, 20th and 21st RBIs of the season, and catapulting Wisconsin into the 4-2 lead.
Distancing themselves from Purdue as much as possible, the Badgers picked up another pair of runs in the next inning. Mersch and Christner each drew walks, both finding their way around the bases on a string of steals. Mersch scored on a daring steal of home and Christner scored off a Massei single.
Each team added another run to the scoreboard in the sixth inning, with Buckhardt scoring again for Purdue and sophomore Ashley Van Zeeland, reaching on an error, scored for UW off a single by Mueller, putting the final score at 7-3.
Wisconsin has now tied the previous school record for longest winning streak, and is tied for third for Big Ten wins in a season (11). The Badgers have their work cut out for them as they look to continue the winning streak this Wednesday when No. 2 Nebraska comes to Madison in what is sure to be a tough matchup.