No. 21 Wisconsin (2-1 Big Ten, 23-3 overall) entered last weekend’s series against Northwestern (1-2, 12-16) in Evanston with tons of momentum, riding a 12-game win streak that included a no-hitter from freshman Kaitlyn Menz just a few days earlier. However, the Badgers still had a daunting three game set in front of them, as they were attempting to win their first series in Evanston since 2001.
In a season that has already brought plenty of firsts for the red-hot Badgers, this weekend was no different. Wisconsin beat the Wildcats in two of three games to win their first Big Ten series of the year and keep the much-needed momentum rolling.
The weekend started off bright for the Badgers Friday with a 14-5 thrashing of their Big Ten rivals. Down 1-0 after the first, Wisconsin quickly got their act together and overpowered the Wildcats, managing to score in every inning from then on. Freshman right fielder Jordan Little, who came into the game with one homerun and two RBIs, led the Badgers with a 2-for-2 day that included two dingers and seven RBIs, as well as two walks and four runs scored.
The two teams traded runs in a close game until the fifth inning, when Wisconsin broke the game open, scoring nine runs in the final three frames. With this victory, the Badgers extended their winning streak to 13 games, tying the program record.
The second game of the series marked the first blown lead of the season for the Badgers. Northwestern opened the game with two runs in the first, thanks to uncharacteristically sloppy defense by Wisconsin. UW took the lead in the top of the third after a two-run home run from senior Chloe Miller, her sixth of the year.
Heading into the top of the fifth, the score was tied at three. With two outs and no one aboard, junior Kelsey Jenkins sent a pitch over the wall in right-center field to give UW a 4-3 lead. Northwestern rallied in the bottom of the seventh and tied the game after another error by Jenkins, sending the game to extra-innings. The Wildcats used this late-game momentum to their favor, winning the contest with a walk-off inside the park home run on their first at bat of the eighth inning. Kirsten Stevens (8-1) was handed her first loss of the year despite only allowing two earned runs.
After a disappointing outing that tied the series at a game a piece, Wisconsin had little room for error if they wanted to leave Evanston with a series win. This time around, the Badgers played to their usual standards and dropped the Wildcats 7-1, answering any questions raised by Saturday’s loss.
Menz (14-2) won her second game of the series and Big Ten-leading 14th game of the year, holding the Wildcats to four hits in her 13th complete game of the season. Wisconsin led the game 2-0 entering the top of the seventh, but busted out five runs in the final frame thanks to two home runs and a single.
Junior Brooke Wyderski led the team with two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run shot to left in the seventh. Unfortunately, Chloe Miller saw her 14-game hitting streak end, as the Wildcats walked her three times in four at bats. Miller still leads all Division I players with a .518 average this season.
Next weekend, Wisconsin hosts Nebraska (0-3, 8-20) in their first home series of the year. The Badgers are one of two teams ranked in the Top 25 that has yet to play a home game this season. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday.