Despite averaging 10 runs per game over their last four matchups, Wisconsin (17-22 overall, 2-9 Big Ten) dropped two of three games over the weekend against Iowa (14-31, 5-9).
The series could not have started any worse for the Badgers. In the first game of the series Friday, the Hawkeyes, led by shortstop Megan Blank, exploded in the top half of the first inning tallying 10 runs. The offensive onslaught diminished soon after as the Badgers settled down courtesy of strong pitching from freshman Annie Davis.
Both teams exchanged a few hits here and there, but after the nightmare first inning, the game evened out and Iowa won the game with a final score of 16-4.
Hoping to make amends for Friday night’s loss, the Badgers took the field Saturday with a winning attitude in check. Led by junior Taylor-Paige Stewart’s arm, Wisconsin was able to establish a defensive tone early. Stewart struck out eight over seven innings to provide the defense the Badgers desperately needed.
“She came out strong, she was moving the ball around using her pitches. She had the composure and the effort today,” said head coach Yvette Healy.
However, Stewart was not the only Badger who stepped up Saturday. Senior Marissa Mersch led Wisconsin at the plate stringing together two hits, scoring a run and notching an RBI.
With the Badgers down one in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wisconsin turned to Stewart. The junior who already put on a pitching clinic earlier dug her cleats into the box and belted a home run over the left field fence to even the score 4-4. Four batters later, senior Maria Van Abel reached first safely on a fielder’s choice that scored junior Katie Christner. Not only did the Badgers celebrate in walk-off fashion, but Wisconsin paved the way for a salivating rubber match Sunday.
Posing as a mirror image of Saturday’s thriller, Wisconsin and Iowa put together a defensive battle Sunday in front of 736 anxious spectators. Iowa jumped out front in the top of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. UW answered the bell every time, however. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Kelsey Jenkins tripled to deep right and Ashley Van Zeeland singled her home soon after.
After Iowa took the lead in the top half of the fifth inning thanks to a sacrifice fly, Wisconsin responded in manner familiar to Saturday. Down by one run heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Megan Tancill roped an opposite field triple down the left field line to get the Badgers going. After the next two batters struck out, the game was in the hands of Mersch who delivered with a game-tying RBI single to left.
Despite flipping the momentum, Iowa’s Blank blasted a homer over the center field wall in the top of the 10th inning giving the Hawkeyes not only a 3-2 win, but also a series win.
Wisconsin’s next series begins Tuesday when it hosts Green Bay (12-18, 5-6 Horizon League) for a two-game stint.