The Wisconsin softball squad (6-3 Big Ten, 22-12 overall) has built a reputation over the past year as being a comeback team. There’s no question that the Badgers reinforced this fact Tuesday night against Western Illinois (13-12 Summit League, 22-18 overall).
After notching the biggest comeback in team history last Saturday against Minnesota, the Badgers squeezed out a pair of come-from-behind wins Tuesday, winning 12-11 in nine innings in the first game and 7-1 in the second. The wins extended their win streak to eight games, tying a school record.
Despite committing five errors, the Badgers managed a comeback after being down 7-1 in the third inning. Wisconsin scored three in the third inning and four in the sixth inning to pull ahead by one going into the last frame, but allowed an RBI single by Leatherneck sophomore infielder Emma Jarrell to tie the game eight.
The Leathernecks exploded for three more runs in the ninth, but Wisconsin answered by finally figuring out Western Illinois’ sophomore pitcher Hailey Bickford. Junior catcher Maggie Strange singled to center and tied the game at 11, but an error in the outfield allowed freshman designated player Marissa Mersch to score and put an end to the crazy contest.
“These last couple have been pretty dramatic, so I think it shows our maturity even though we’re pretty young,” head coach Yvette Healy said.
“It would be nice to have a little more sense of urgency, though,” she joked. “Coaches would like it to be not so exciting, but as a group we’re really proud. They’ve got some nice composure.”
Leading the way for the Badgers offensively were junior third baseman Shannel Blackshear and sophomore shortstop Stephanie Peace. Blackshear went 4-for-5 with a pair of runs and an RBI while Peace—who earned Big Ten Softball Player of the Week for the previous week’s performance—went 2-for-4 with four RBI.
Western Illinois scored its lone run in the third from an RBI triple from freshman catcher Lia Romeo. This proved to be the only blemish on Darrah’s line, as she cruised through the remaining innings with little difficulty. She threw all seven innings and gave up five hits.
Strange provided a spark yet again in Game two, hitting a solo home run to left-center to tie the game at one right as it appeared that the Badgers would never find an answer to Michelini. The solo shot was Strange’s first extra-base hit on the season. Known for her stellar play behind the plate and not so much for her hitting—she has a career slugging percentage of .174 in 109 at-bats—Strange’s work in the offseason is finally being put on display.
“I was really excited,” Strange said of the home run. “I worked really hard with [senior designated player] Karla [Powell], we were here all summer working together and it’s nice to have hard work finally pay off. We were down 1-0 and to give that spark is really nice.”
The comeback wins and the winning streak is perhaps a product of the team’s growing togetherness, something that Strange said is undoubtedly taking place.
“After we got our butt’s kicked there in the beginning (of the first game), we finally came back together and played as a team,” Strange said. “We talked about playing as a team today and coming together, and obviously now with the winning streak that we’re on you can tell that we definitely have become closer as a team.”