Despite ranking fourth in the Big Ten, the Wisconsin women’s softball team has been one of the hottest teams in the country for the past month with a record of 15-2 in April. The Badgers looked to carry that momentum into the month of May.
Wisconsin (33-17, 15-7 Big Ten) traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., in the last regular season series against the conference’s top-ranked Michigan (40-11, 18-5), and in an upset, walked away with the “W” in two of the three games.
In the first game of a three-game series, the Badgers hit the ground running, scoring a run right away in the top of the first. After leadoff hitter Mary Massei reached first base on a dropped third strike, teammates Michelle Mueller and Stephanie Peace hit her the rest of the way around the bases on a single and a lineout to center field, respectively.
The Wolverines responded in the bottom of the second when designated hitter Taylor Hasselbach hit a home run to center field off UW pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart, and again in the next inning when shortstop Sierra Romero did the same, taking the early lead away from Wisconsin.
The Badgers kicked it into gear over the next two innings, however, putting up a couple more runs of their own.
Right fielder Katie Christner started things off in the fourth with a single to the right side of the diamond, followed by Massei who was intentionally walked by Michigan. With two of Wisconsin’s fastest players on base, second baseman Sara Novak doubled to right center, bringing in both runners and taking the lead back.
Novak had a little more in her yet. After pinch runner Caitlyn Warren scored another UW run in the fifth, Novak nearly doubled Wisconsin’s side of the scoreboard with a 7th-inning grand slam to right field, bringing in teammates Marissa Mersch, Christner and Maria Van Abel. The Wolverines put up an additional run of their own in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t undo Novak’s work, ending the game at 9-3.
Wolverines tie the series
Michigan wasn’t going to go quietly in the second game of the series Saturday.
The Wolverines were the first to score this time around, with Hasselbach scoring the first run after she reached second on a double, and catcher Lauren Sweet capitalized on a UW throwing error, scoring a second run of the inning.
Wisconsin fought back and scored a run of its own when Mueller, having singled through the right side herself, reached home on a single by teammate Ashley Van Zeeland.
But Michigan proved relentless, tacking on three additional runs in the bottom of the third off a series of singles and doubles, including ones by Romero and Sweet.
The Wolverines solidified the win three innings later when they put together another string of hits, with Abby Ramirez, Nicole Sappingfield and Caitlin Blanchard all singling, Romero hitting a double, and Hasselbach polishing off the inning with another home run to centerfield off Wisconsin pitcher Cassandra Darrah, making the final score a lopsided 10-1.
Wisconsin takes the series win in extras
With only one game left in the series between the No.1 and No. 4 ranked teams in the conference, both came prepared and determined, fighting tooth-and-nail and pushing the game into extra innings.
The score remained 0-0 until the bottom of the third inning, when Michigan finally broke through. After Sappingfield doubled to right field, Romero hit her second home run of the weekend, bringing in two RBIs for the home team.
UW responded by putting four-spot in the top of the next inning, starting with a single by Mueller. Marisa Gonzalez pinch ran for the third baseman, and advanced to third when Peace doubled to center field. Van Zeeland loaded the bases when she reached on a fielder’s choice, and catcher Chloe Miller brought in the first run when she drew a walk. With bases still loaded, Mersch brought in both Gonzalez and Peace on a single to right field, and Miller scored an unearned run when she made it home on a Michigan error, putting the score at 4-2.
Michigan tied the score back up in the bottom of the inning with a single from third baseman Lindsey Montemarano right before a home run from center fielder Lyndsay Doyle, bringing in both batters. Both teams brought in an additional run in the seventh inning, keeping the score tied and forcing the game into extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth inning, Sara Novak hit her well-placed second home run of the weekend in the ninth, pushing Wisconsin into the 6-5 lead. Michigan failed to respond in the bottom of the inning, giving the Badgers a 2-1 series win on the weekend. Wisconsin couldn’t ask for a higher note to finish out the regular season on as they head into conference tournament next weekend.