Wisconsin (6-6 Big Ten, 27-8 overall) continued its success away from home this season last weekend, taking two of three games from Purdue (6-8, 17-29) to reach .500 in the Big Ten.
The Badgers split the first two games before winning the rubber match Sunday, a template the team has followed in three of their four conference series this year.
Freshman Kaitlyn Menz led the way from the mound, allowing only four runs over 14 innings of work and extending her record to 18-5 on the season. Her 18 wins rank second in the Big Ten.
The Badgers got off to a hot start Friday night before lightning halted play in the top of the fifth, delaying the last few innings until Saturday morning. After going down 1-0 in the bottom of the first, Wisconsin rallied and put up five runs on the Boilermakers, highlighted by an explosive third inning.
Freshman Jordan Little dropped a bunt that scored junior Brooke Wyderski, giving the Badgers their first lead of the game. After Little and senior Sara Novak advanced to second and third on a sac bunt by sophomore Melanie Cross, fellow sophomore Stephanie Lombardo slapped a single up the middle, scoring Novak and moving Little to third.
Next up was sophomore Gabby Scherle, who dropped the Badgers' third bunt of the inning and brought home Little, making it 4-1. Scherle has received limited playing time this year, but continues to find a way to make an impact whenever she gets in the game.
Wisconsin struck again in the fifth inning when Lombardo forced an error by Purdue’s shortstop, allowing the speedy junior Brianna Flugaur to come around and score all the way from second.
Purdue managed to tack on one more run in the sixth, but the Badgers shut down the rally early and won the game 5-2.
The Badgers struggled a bit more in game two. Wisconsin started off on fire, scoring four runs in the third to take a commanding early lead. However the Boilermakers were unfazed and put up three of their own in the bottom of the same inning.
Wisconsin’s powerful offense was stifled the rest of the game and didn’t put another run on the board, but stayed strong defensively and kept their one-run lead heading into the sixth. The Boilermakers rallied however, and scored twice in the sixth to take 5-4 lead.
Wisconsin rallied in the top of the seventh, putting two runners on, but couldn’t pull out the victory.
Wisconsin got out to yet another hot start on Sunday, but managed to hold on and win the game this time around. Junior Kelsey Jenkins led off the game with a dinger to center, the team’s first leadoff home run in three years, and Menz had one of her best performances of the season on the way to a 3-1 Badger victory. The freshman phenom had a shutout for 6 and 2/3 innings, allowing her only run on a double in the third-to-last at-bat of the game.
The Badgers have now won two straight Big Ten series, and will look to make it three this weekend with a tough home match up against No. 19 Michigan (11-2, 31-9-1). However, before they take on the Wolverines, archrival No. 5 Minnesota (11-1, 38-3) comes to town for a doubleheader Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.