The Bradley Braves (19-28, 9-14 MVC) gave the Wisconsin Badgers (31-15, 12-6 Big Ten) all they could handle Tuesday night.
Playing at the friendly confines of Goodman Diamond on a beautiful spring night, the Badgers rode junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh’s (6-5) arm the distance to 2-0 win against the Braves.
The Badgers, a team that had already scored 247 runs this season coming into their matchup with the Braves – a program record – struggled mightily to come up with timely hits against Bradley ace Madeline Lynch-Crumrine (10-17) as the team scattered eight hits across seven innings but failed to come up with clutch hits for the majority of the game, leaving six on base, going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“We faced a great pitcher,” sophomore Stephanie Peace said. “She kept us off balance, she had some off-speed stuff, some down balls, something we weren’t really used to. I don’t think we were quite ready for it. It was unlike our team to get the clutch hits tonight. We just have to come out a little more focused and disciplined on what we’re going to swing at in those situations and get those runs across.”
Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy also had compliments for the Braves’ starting pitcher.
“Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off balance,” Healy said. “We’re coming off a tough weekend on the road and creating momentum is important and I’m glad to get this game under our belt now.”
Even though the Badgers’ offense failed to produce five runs for the third time in just the past 16 games, it made little difference, as McIntosh allowed five measly hits to the Braves, going the distance to pick up the win on the mound with her fifth complete game of the season.
Wisconsin used a little bit of small ball to sneak across its first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning. A one-out single by sophomore Michelle Mueller started things off for the Badgers, as Maggie Strange laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Mueller to second for the second out.
After the team left two runners on in the bottom of first, freshman Marissa Mersch made sure that would not happen again, hitting a single that turned out to score Mueller after Braves’ first baseman Brianne Joseph was not able to handle the throw to first, giving the Badgers the first blood of the game and a lead they would never surrender.
The Badgers struck again in the bottom of the third, using a leadoff double by hot-hitting junior second baseman Whitney Massey to start things off. Not to be outdone, Peace stepped up and hit a double of her own, driving in Massey to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead and the game’s eventual final score.
After that, the bats went M.I.A., as the team managed only one hit in the next three innings. Lynch-Crumrine went the distance herself, allowing eight hits and two walks while only allowing one earned run.
It was a delicate situation for the Badgers. Currently sitting tied for fourth place in the conference standings with Iowa and just one game behind Big Ten leading Michigan, Wisconsin welcomes Green Bay tomorrow in a doubleheader in their final nonconference contests of the season before hosting the biggest Big Ten series of the season when the team takes on Michigan.
With the Badgers currently sitting with an RPI of 46 with just eight games remaining in the season, Healy knows just how important winning every game has become for her team.
“We’ve seen other teams lose some nonconference games and it hasn’t hurt them as much,” Healy said. “So we’re not trying to be perfect and get nervous about it but every game is big now down the stretch. For us it’s about are we making improvements. We’ve got three tough ones against Michigan and Nebraska left.”
The game marked the 11th consecutive game that the Badgers have won at Goodman Diamond, an active streak that is good for the school record. The Badgers are also closing in on the all-time wins mark in a single season. With the record at 34 and Tuesday night’s victory giving the team win No. 31, the Badgers will need to win four out of their remaining eight to break the record. Not too bad for a team who finished 20-31 just two years ago.
“It’s been awesome, coming from where we were with the softball program a few years ago, this is amazing,” Massey said. “It’s nice to see the progression of the team and I feel like we have such great chemistry, it’s just really fun to play for this team.”