Just after having its school-record nine-game win streak snapped by Illinois last Sunday, the Wisconsin softball team (11-4 Big Ten, 27-13 overall) has already started another notable streak after sweeping Penn State to push its winning streak to four.
The Badgers won by scores of 4-1 and 8-0 (five innings) on Saturday and 9-0 (five innings) on Sunday.
Wisconsin’s sweep came against a Penn State program it has historically struggled against. Coming into the series the Nittany Lions held a 25-12 all-time series advantage over the Badgers.
“Penn State is a great program and I think historically they really had our number,” UW head coach Yvette Healy said. “To come in and take three games at home is always exciting, especially when it is a team like Penn State who was in the NCAA tournament last year.”
Attention for Wisconsin softball seems to be growing with the recent success of the program this year, as Sunday’s attendance of 1,002 was the fourth-largest in school history.
Sophomore pitchers Cassandra Darrah and Amanda Najdek held the Nittany Lions’ lineup in check the entire weekend.
Darrah threw complete games in the first and final games and only allowed 10 hits—eight of which came in the first game—and allowed only one earned run. Najdek allowed only two hits in the five-inning complete game in the second game Saturday.
With both pitchers having their off-speed pitches clicking, the Nittany Lions stood no chance of coming back against the pesky Wisconsin offense.
“Our pitching coach Tracie [Adix] has been working on [off speed pitching] with them this week for the home stretch of the season and I think they both did a great job of executing that today,” Healy said.
“I definitely kept the ball down and tweaked [the off speed pitches] here and there,” Najdek said. “I kept the hitters off balance and that’s a really key thing with a good hitting team.”
The Badgers’ performance in the circle wasn’t the only thing clicking during the series. They utilized big innings on offense and committed only one error the entire weekend.
“You can hear them communicating a lot more [on defense] so I think they’re having better approaches to balls and getting better jumps off of pitches,” Healy said.
“Absolutely spectacular,” Najdek said of the defense behind her in the second game on Saturday. “I just always know that I can count on them and that they have my back.”
The Badgers scored three quick runs off of Penn State’s Marissa Diescher, who struggled mightily with control in her 1 1/3 innings of work. Despite being outhit 8-4 by the Nittany Lions, the Badgers still maintained control throughout, as the opposing pitchers were inconsistent with finding the strike zone.
In the second game Saturday, the Badgers took a while to figure out Penn State pitcher Jordan Wheatley, but when they did they exploded for six runs in the fourth.
Sophomore outfielder Mary Massei and sophomore shortstop Stephanie Peace paced the Badgers at the plate over the weekend. Massei went 4-for-8 with four RBI and four runs while Peace went 3-for-7 with two RBI and three runs.