After snow earlier in the week forced Saturday’s doubleheader to move back 24 hours, the Wisconsin softball team split the series with a ranked No. 15 Minnesota Sunday afternoon, each adding a win to their records.
Wisconsin came away victorious in the first game of the doubleheader, knocking off the Gophers in a 2-1 defensive battle.
The first half of the first game proved to be a pitcher’s duel, with the only two hits coming in the first and third inning for Wisconsin until the Badgers finally landed on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Junior Marissa Mersch singled to left field, found her way around the bases on a couple groundouts and finally made it home as teammate Ashley Van Zeeland reached first on an error by Minnesota shortstop Tyler Walker.
Minnesota responded in the next half inning with a pair of hits of its own but was unable to get any runners across home plate.
However, the next inning the Minnesota defense was able to keep the Badgers’ bats at bay, and finally earned a run of its own when catcher Taylor LeMay homered over the left field wall, tying up the score at one with her team’s sole run of the game.
Wisconsin didn’t waste any time in pulling ahead again, as third baseman Michelle Mueller reached first on a second error by Walker in the top of the sixth. Sophomore Katie Christner pinch ran for Mueller, eventually finding her way home on yet another Minnesota error.
The bottom of the final inning saw Minnesota load the bases with two outs, making it look like the Gophers might make a last-minute comeback, only to have No. 3 batter Kaitlyn Richardson fly out to left field and leave all three on base, leaving the score at 2-1.
On the mound for Wisconsin, Taylor-Paige Stewart allowed six hits and four free passes on a walk, three hit batsmen and threw two strikeouts. Minnesota’s Sara Moulton fanned four batters, did not walk a single one and allowed for six hits.
After a short break the Big Ten rivals were back at it, starting off the second game at a much different pace with Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen striking out all three Wisconsin batters she faced in the first inning.
In the bottom of the fist inning, the Minnesota offense began hot as well, hitting two infield singles off of UW pitcher Cassandra Darrah.
The Gophers finally found their way onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when LeMay batted in two RBIs on a single up the middle, her second and third of the day. An inning later, Richardson picked up the final RBI of the game when she doubled to left field.
Wisconsin didn’t go down without a fight though, seeing two more hits in the bottom of the seventh coming from fifth and sixth hitters Van Zeeland and Chloe Miller. In the end though, the Badgers closed out the inning with a runner left on base and no runs, allowing the Gophers to shut them out 3-0 and split the series.
But no one can say the Minnesota win wasn’t earned. Groenewegen struck out nine batters as opposed to Darrah’s total of five and allowed only two hits. Meanwhile Darrah surrendered a total of nine hits to the Minnesota offensive attack.
The Badgers will play again this Wednesday afternoon when North Dakota (8-24) comes to town.