For the first time this season, Goodman Diamond was treated to hearing the walk-up music of freshman Mary Massei. The Huntington Beach, Calif. native chose the 2pac hit “California Love” for the speakers and gave the Badgers some much needed love in the outfield and at the plate in her return to the lineup from a multiple facial fracture injury that led to a 15-game absence.
Donning a protective mask, Massei showed her vision was still perfect in the first game of the doubleheader. Throwing caution to the wind, Massei laid out for a nice diving catch in left field during the top of the fourth inning to rob Minnesota hitter Aubrey Davis of a single.
“Having the mask has been funny,” Massei said. “Everyone’s calling me ‘The Phantom’ or ‘Hannibal Lecter.’ Wearing it is weird but it hasn’t affected any part of my game. With the mask protecting me there was nothing holding me back from making that play.”
Massei not only demonstrated her fielding abilities in the opening game, but also shook off any rust she may have had against one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten. Facing Minnesota’s ace in freshman pitcher Sara Moulton (23-12), Massei banged a leadoff triple off the centerfield wall in the bottom of the fifth to give the Badgers a chance to tie the game at 1.
Although the Badgers failed to bring Massei across the plate and ultimately dropped the first game of the doubleheader 1-0, Massei showed her offensive talent as Moulton surrendered one of her three hits allowed to the Badger freshman and the only extra base hit of the game.
“Inside pitches usually aren’t my strength,” Massei said. “I just decided to go for it and powered through it. I was a little nervous coming in today because I haven’t seen live pitching in three and half weeks. The second after I was cleared for this game I hit for two hours on Monday to get prepared.”
Head coach Yvette Healy is happy just to have another talent added on to the Badger bats.
“She’s got a lot of spark,” Healy said. “It’s huge, every hitter in a lineup makes a difference for the other hitters. A lot of our freshmen have that same energy she has. We love the contributions we’re getting from them this season.”
For Massei, it’s a long time coming, as the outfielder is happy to finally be back and contributing on the diamond.
“It feels great, every moment today felt that way,” Massei said. “It felt so good to put on my jersey for the first time and be with my team in the dugout and contributing. It was frustrating before, but I just reminded myself I had to give it my all for the team even on the sidelines.”
Pitcher this: Pitchers Darrah, Najdek, solid in doubleheader split
In a sport where pitching is everything, the Badgers received two solid outings on the mound Wednesday night to help Wisconsin earn a split in its doubleheader with Minnesota.
With Meghan McIntosh being uncharacteristically shaky in the first two innings of the nightcap against Minnesota, Healy opted to pull the sophomore in favor of emerging freshman Amanda Najdek (3-2). Najdek turned in another great performance for Wisconsin, as the freshman went five innings allowing three hits and no runs. Najdek earned the win, as the Badgers took the nightcap 5-3 from the Gophers.
“I was feeling good about all my pitches today,” Najdek said. “My changeup was really working, that was my go-to pitch. I was keeping them off-balance and making them chase. I got the ball on the ground a lot and got my outs.”
When the Badgers needed it most, Najdek clamped down with the team clinging to a 4-3 lead.
“My approach was to just bear down,” Najdek said. “I just wanted to give our team the momentum and a chance to come back.”
The difference between Najdek and freshman Cassandra Darrah’s performance in the first game was a matter of run support. While the Badger offense produced a four-run second inning to give Najdek all the runs she needed, the runs ceased to exist in the first game as the Badgers fell 1-0.
“Pitching has been huge for us this year,” Healy said. “It’s a totally different thing to throw in a game when you’re behind and when you’re ahead. When Amanda walked into the game she had a lead and she protected it for us.”