[media-credit name=’Megan McCormick / The Badger Herald’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]
Entering the fifth inning of Sunday’s game between Penn State and Wisconsin, the speakers at Goodman Diamond cranked up “Jump Around,” as fans and Badger players alike were caught enjoying a few jumps of their own.
When you’re winning like this Wisconsin team, you can enjoy moments like these.
The Badgers (27-13, 10-4 Big Ten) dismantled the Nittany Lions (13-26, 5-10 Big Ten) in a three-game series this past weekend, sweeping their opponent with 4-1, 8-0 and 9-0 victories. Wisconsin now currently owns an eight-game winning streak on their home field, as the sweep over Penn State was the program’s first since 1997.
“It’s fun to see them keep getting better,” Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy said. “That’s a big thing that we’ve focused on all year. Today’s win for Cassandra [Darrah], to go from giving up eight hits yesterday to two today, she really had a nice improvement.”
In the Badgers final game of the series Sunday, the team once again unleashed an offensive onslaught that led to the Lions being mercy-ruled in the fifth. Benefiting from strong performances from the middle of their batting order, including two-hit performances from both Kendall Grimm and Whitney Massey, Wisconsin cruised to a 9-0 victory.
The series finale started off with a bang, as the Badgers chased the Lions’ starting pitcher, Marissa Diescher (5-7), out of the game in the bottom of the first inning without recording a single out. The Badgers scored four runs on two hits in the first frame, as Shannel Blackshear, Stephanie Peace and Karla Powell all recorded RBIs.
The rest of the game proved to be a breeze for Healy’s squad, as the Badgers offense scored one run in the second inning and four in the third to compliment starting pitcher Darrah’s (18-7) dominant work on the mound. The former Big Ten Pitcher of the Week made it look easy from the rubber, giving up just two hits while striking out three and walking none in five innings of work.
“I go in just thinking I have to do my best, regardless of who it is,” Darrah said. “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. My team’s right behind me hitting, so that really helps. It’s always nice to have that support.”
In the second game of the series – the second game of a Saturday doubleheader – it was more or less the same story, as Wisconsin mercy-ruled Penn State in five innings in an 8-0 win. The Badgers used a six-run inning in the fourth to help seal a solid five-inning, two-hit effort from sophomore Amanda Najdek (5-1) on the mound.
Wisconsin put the finishing touches on the game during the bottom of the fifth inning, as Mary Massei’s two-out, bases-loaded hit scored Stephanie Peace to run-rule Penn State.
In game two, the top of the order boosted the Badgers offensively, as Massei went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs while Grimm contributed a 2-for-3 performance of her own. Penn State was never able to find an answer against the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the Badger lineup throughout the three-game series, as Massei and Grimm combined to go 8-for-15 at the plate, scoring seven runs and driving in six.
“I think we all have a common goal of just getting it done,” Massei said. “Every play of the game we’re zoned in and trying to get it done. It just shows how much hard work pulls through. We’re working hard everyday with that goal to get to the NCAA (tournament).”
In the first game of the series Saturday, the Badgers set the tone early with three runs in the first inning. Wisconsin scored on RBIs from Blackshear, Marissa Mersch and Michelle Mueller, as the Badgers held on to win 4-1.
Darrah was dominant as usual on the mound, as the Badgers’ ace allowed eight hits scattered over seven innings of work. The only run that the sophomore pitcher would allow would be a long-ball to Penn State’s Cassidy Bell, who went 3-for-4 in the game against the Badgers’ righty.
The win in game one of the doubleheader Saturday also marked a historic feat. With the 4-1 victory, the Badgers became the fastest team in program history to amass 25 wins.
“They’re getting it together,” Healy said. “I really think it’s all the hard work they’ve put in and [assistant coach Randy] Schneider’s work with them offensively. Those are huge games, and I think it takes the pressure off of everybody when you put runs together.”
Wisconsin has now won 13 of its last 14 games, while Penn State had won six of its last seven coming into the weekend series with the Badgers.