To paraphrase Stefon from Saturday Night Live, this game had everything.
The Wisconsin Badgers softball team (4-5 Big Ten, 25-7 overall) won an extra-inning thriller against the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-6, 9-23) by a score of 6-5 thanks to a walk-off RBI by junior shortstop Brooke Wyderski in the 10th inning. On the way to this dramatic ending, there were costly errors, coach ejections and five ties or lead changes.
First baseman Kaitlyn Mullarkey delivered an RBI double to give Iowa an early lead. She drove in right fielder Lea Thompson with an RBI double in the top of the third to make it 1-0. However the Badgers answered the next inning. After a single by junior second baseman Kelsey Jenkins, senior catcher Chloe Miller hit a two-run homerun to left-center field to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead. The veteran catcher has been a standout for the Badgers this season and leads the team with nine home runs.
Wisconsin extended its lead in the fifth inning after sophomore designated player Kelly Cross hit a clutch RBI double with two outs. Sophomore first baseman Stephanie Lombardo blooped a ball into left to bring in another run to give UW a 4-1 lead. Iowa’s starting pitcher Elizabeth Wiegand looked rattled, throwing a couple wild pitches, and the Hawkeyes made the change to sophomore Erin Riding. The Badgers put runners on second and third before Riding closed out the inning with a flyout to center field.
Now it was the Hawkeyes’ turn to change the lead. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth, Iowa was gifted a run after a throwing error by Wyderski. The junior’s throw to first sailed over Lombardo’s head, and the Hawkeyes cut the lead to 4-2. Iowa added two more runs to tie the game at 4 thanks to some infield hits.
The game’s tension began to build after the bottom of the sixth. The umpires ejected an Iowa assistant coach after it appeared he was arguing too much about balls and strikes. Mullarkey led off the seventh with a walk, and after a steal by McKenzie Schneider, the Hawkeyes had runners on second and third with one out. Wisconsin’s freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Menz was in a jam, but she forced Angela Schmiederer into a grounder to the third base side, setting up a play at the plate. Miller was able to tag out Mullarkey, keeping the score tied, but the call was controversial, leading to more arguing between the Iowa dugout and the umps. Despite hitting Iowa’s Mallory Kilian to load the bases, Menz got out of the jam after striking out Cheyenne Pratt looking. Wisconsin could not do anything in the bottom of the frame and the game went to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Wisconsin escaped yet another bases loaded situation after Wyderski made a clutch catch off the bat of Schneider, making up for her throwing error earlier in the game. After a scoreless bottom half of the eighth, Iowa manufactured a run to regain the lead in the ninth. Schmiederer advanced to second after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt by Killian. Another single by Pratt gave Iowa runners on the corners, and Claire Fritsch knocked in Schmiederer with an RBI single. Another sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, but Thompson grounded out to the pitcher and the Hawkeyes clung to just a 5-4 lead.
In the home half of the ninth and needing a run, freshman right fielder Jordan Little hit a single through the gap after senior Sara Novak started the inning off with a groundout to shortstop. Cross then smacked the ball to left field, but it did not have enough juice to get over the wall, and Iowa’s Pratt made the catch at the warning track for out number two. Lombardo singled through the gap, allowing Little to reach third. Sophomore left fielder Gabby Scherle then drove the ball into the gap and Iowa attempted to get the force out at second. However, in yet another controversial call, the umps called Lombardo safe at second, allowing Little to score and tying the game at 5.
Scherle picked up a great time to get her first RBI of the season, and that hit and subsequent call left the Iowa players visibly frustrated, with the second baseman slamming her glove to the ground after the call. Head coach Marla Looper was ejected after coming out to the diamond and arguing the call, making her the second coach for Iowa to be sent to an early shower.
In the top of the 10th inning, the Badgers held the Hawkeyes scoreless, giving them the chance to win the game. Junior second baseman Kelsey Jenkins reached first on an error to start the inning. Miller then drew a walk and Wyderski followed with a walkoff to right field, giving the Badgers the 6-5 victory.
“I just wanted to do a job and move the runners knowing I had [Novak] behind me,” Wyderski said. The junior from Justice, Ill., did much more than just move the runners, and that final hit was just part of her great performance at the plate today, as she went 3-for-6, increasing her batting average to .364.
Menz was the other standout on the day, pitching a complete game and throwing 195 pitches.
“My arm is definitely a little sore,” the freshman phenom said.
The native Iowan stayed solid throughout the marathon performance, striking out nine batters en route to her 16th win of the season.
“[Catcher Chloe Miller] really just kept me in check,” Menz said. “She always made sure I would just focus on the next pitch.”
The Badgers got back on track in the Big Ten season. The win today clinched the series against Iowa, which was crucial after being swept by Nebraska last weekend. The Badgers next travel to West Lafayette to face Purdue, looking to continue their momentum.
“Our goals for the rest of the season are to keep taking series,” Menz said.