The Wisconsin (3-16 Big Ten, 19-30 overall) offense struggled once again, but this one might have hurt a bit more. The Badgers got swept and mercy-ruled in their final home series of the season at the hands of rival Minnesota (17-3, 43-8).
The first game of the doubleheader saw the Badgers fail to generate much offense. Other than senior Maria Van Abel scoring a run in the first and freshman Kelsey Jenkins hitting a homer in the fourth, Wisconsin’s bats were mostly silent in the loss. Minnesota’s star pitcher Sara Groenewegen gave up only two runs on five hits.
The pitching was strong for the Badgers with freshman Mariah Watts on the mound, though she struggled to find the strike zone early in the game.
“I had a hard time settling my tempo and how I approached the game” Watts said about her early game struggles.
After giving up four runs in the first two innings, Watts found a groove and went four scoreless. When asked what helped her cruise through those innings, she said, “I was more confident in my changeup and my defense was the biggest thing, the trust was there.”
The game was close heading into the seventh inning with the Badgers down 4-2. Then, the Gophers score another three runs to push their lead to 7-2, which was the final score of the game.
The Gophers continued their momentum into the second game, scoring five runs in the first two innings of the game. Groenewegen hit a home run in the second, her first of two in the game, to push the Gophers’ lead to five runs. Junior Taylor-Paige Stewart got roughed up in the game giving up eight runs in just 3.2 innings. Freshman Annie Davis was brought in for relief but didn’t fare much better, giving up a run to the first batter she faced, then another three runs in the fifth inning.
The Badgers offense continued to struggle in the doubleheader against Minnesota junior Nikki Anderson, who held the Badger offense to just four hits in the game. Wisconsin couldn’t manufacture any runs until the bottom of the fifth inning and the Gophers completed the sweep with a mercy rule win of 12-1.
While the offense of the Badgers struggled, there were individual performances that stood out. One was Jenkins, who hit a home run in the first game and batted in the only run of the second game. Van Abel was the other standout in her last game at Goodman Diamond.
“You never really leave the field happy if you play well and don’t get the win because that’s what we are here to do,” Van Abel said.
This doubleheader concluded the home games for the Badgers, and the second-winningest class in school history. When asked about what was running through her mind in the last inning and if she was thinking about all of her experiences in that field, Van Abel said “Being out in center that last inning was a weird feeling. There are a lot of good memories out there and that is what I will hold onto.”
The Badgers will finish their regular season against Rutgers May 1 in New Brunswick, N.J.