The Badger softball team (5-1 Big Ten, 24-7 overall) began conference play this past week, taking on Big Ten opponents Illinois (1-5, 11-7) and Iowa (1-5, 20-13) in two separate away tournaments. Wisconsin was scheduled to play two same-day games at home against Northwestern (16-13, 2-3) March 27, but both were postponed due to poor weather conditions.
In Champaign, the Badgers broke out the brooms for a three-game sweep in their tournament against Illinois, winning each game by at least three runs, and never allowing more than two runs a game.
Wisconsin dominated the first game of the series on both sides of the ball in an 8-1 win. Senior first baseman Shannel Blackshear led the Badgers with two runs, while six separate players scored the rest of the runs in a concerted team effort. Junior pitcher Cassandra Darrah allowed only three hits and one run through seven innings
The second game against Illinois played out similarly, with Wisconsin winning 5-1. Illinois scored immediately in the first inning, marking only the ninth time all season the Badgers had to play while behind. Senior pitcher Meghan McIntosh was able to lock down the opposing offense for the rest of the game, recording only three hits and no walks.
Junior infielder Michelle Mueller led the Badgers on offense, knocking in three RBIs in the third and fifth innings. Senior infielder Whitney Massey also scored an insurance home run in the seventh inning.
Darrah once again took to the mound for the last game against Illinois and delivered another dominating performance, allowing only four hits and two walks in a 5-2 win. The Badgers went scoreless through four innings after Illinois scored a run in the second inning, until Blackshear blasted a two-run homer in the fifth. In the sixth inning Wisconsin turned on the heat, scoring three more runs, one of them a career first for freshman third baseman Stefanni LaJeunesse.
Darrah and McIntosh had a combined 0.67 ERA for the series. Darrah once again earned Big Ten Player of the Week for her efforts. This marks the second time she has won the honor this season, putting the total for the Badgers at six all year, more than any other Big Ten school so far.
The first game of the series against Iowa went nine innings, with the Badgers losing in a close 2-1 game, their first loss in 13 games and Darrah’s first loss in seven games. Six different Badgers were able to connect with the ball, but only LaJeunesse scored, hitting a home run in the fifth.
The second game was different story, as McIntosh dominated by allowing only two hits, striking out six and walking one in an 8-0 game. Wisconsin blew the game wide open in the fifth by scoring five runs, all of them on two outs. LaJeunesse again led the Badgers on offense, scoring three RBIs.
Wisconsin took the series in the third game, winning 3-0. Darrah earned her sixth shutout of the season with her 16th win, while junior outfielder Mary Massei went 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
The Badgers will head to Minneapolis next weekend to take on Minnesota, and then open up the season at home against Northern Iowa April 10.