The University of Wisconsin Softball team (30-8, 7-5 Big Ten) traveled to Evanston, IL this past weekend to take on the No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats (33-7, 12-0) in a three-game Big Ten series.
Wisconsin was out-pitched and out-hit by the Wildcats all around and lost all three games 1–4, 5–8 and 4–5 respectively — their longest losing streak of the season.
In game one Friday, the Badgers had a hot start sparked by a home run from Jolie Fish. But, after that, it was only the Northwestern offense that was able to put runs on the board.
The Wildcats scored four unanswered runs to pull away with a 4–1 win.
One of the salient concerns for Head Coach Yvette Healy was the number of free bases her two top pitchers surrendered.
Junior Kaitlyn Menz got the start in this opening game and eventually took the loss, but she only threw three innings. Wisconsin’s other ace, Haley Hestekin, came in during the fourth inning to try and quell Northwestern’s momentum but was unable to tame the Wildcat offense.
Menz and Hestekin combined for nine total walks while the Badger offense drew only three. Two of the four Northwestern runs were unearned — something uncharacteristic of this Badger pitching staff.
The other missing piece for the Badgers in game one was the offensive leadership of junior Kayla Konwent, who went 0-4 on the day and struggled versus Northwestern pitching.
Saturday consisted of a doubleheader between the two teams in preparation for some nasty weather on the horizon.
In the first game of the doubleheader, it seemed as if Wisconsin was coming back for vengeance.
The Badgers took a 5–3 lead early thanks to a Stephanie Lombardo RBI in the first inning to kickstart the scoring. But, it was the two home runs in the second inning from Caroline Hedgcock and Kelly Welsh and a third home run in the fourth from Konwent that showed off the Badger’s power.
That lead would be short-lived, and the bottom of the fourth proved destructive for Wisconsin.
With Menz back in the circle for the Badgers, Northwestern took advantage of two walks to bring the score within one. Healy turned to Hestekin to finish out the game after noticing both her pitcher’s fatigue and Northwestern’s ability to adjust to Menz.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the attempt to give Northwestern hitters a new look went more in the favor of the Wildcats.
Hestekin gave up back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fourth and Northwestern tagged on four more runs that would go unanswered. Wisconsin would go on to lose 8–5.
In game two, the Badgers wouldn’t go down without a fight. But, after a ten-inning battle, Wisconsin left Evanston winless — a major blow to their conference record.
Konwent contributed two RBIs during the game — including her 13th shot over the fence that broke the program’s single-season home run record.
After seven innings of action, the score was knotted up at four, and it was a walk-off home run from Northwestern’s Lily Novak that eventually sealed the win for the Wildcats.
Wisconsin will be back in action Wednesday at home versus the Minnesota Gophers in a doubleheader with games starting at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.