Wisconsin (6-6 Big Ten, 21-17 overall) climbed back to .500 in conference play with a series win against Purdue (4-10, 13-34) this weekend at Goodman Diamond. The Badgers rallied from a tough loss in game one to take the next two tilts behind the stellar pitching of Haley Hestekin. The freshman from Kaukauna, Wis., threw 227 pitches over 14 innings between her two starts, allowing only one earned run on the way to her 10th and 11th wins of the season.
Wisconsin never got going against the Boilermakers in Friday night’s series opener. Sophomore Kaitlyn Menz, who has struggled a bit this year following a fantastic freshman campaign, allowed three runs on seven hits but didn’t receive much assistance from her teammates at the plate. Wisconsin didn’t tally a run until the sixth inning, when junior Stephanie Lombardo and freshman Lauren Foster swatted back-to-back homers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Boilermakers early lead, and UW dropped the game 3-2.
Saturday was a better day for the Badgers on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin got things going in the second, capitalizing on a Purdue error to score two. The game was blown open in the sixth when senior Brooke Wyderski knocked a grand slam to left field, turning a close game into a 7-0 blowout. Even when the score was close, Wisconsin looked like a sure bet to win thanks to Hestekin. The freshman held a no-hitter for six and a third innings, striking out a career-high seven and generally imposing her will on Purdue batters.
The series’ rubber match was a treat for the Badger fans who packed Goodman Diamond Sunday afternoon. Wisconsin got out to a hot start but failed to score in innings two through five after plating two runs in the first. Despite plenty of fight from the Boilermakers, Hestekin held them in check and didn’t surrender a run until the sixth inning, when a Badger defensive error came at an inopportune time and handed Purdue the lead. Wisconsin wouldn’t stay down for long. The first batter of the sixth, Taylor Johnson, drew a five pitch walk. Next up came Melanie Cross. The red-hot catcher sent Purdue’s Sydney Bates’s third pitch over the wall for her fifth hit of the series and fourth home run of the year. Hestekin followed suit with a three-up three-down seventh to earn her 12th win of the season and the Badger’s second straight conference series victory.
Wisconsin has turned things around in its last two series, winning two games against both Illinois and Purdue. The Badgers currently sit at eighth in the conference standings, with a trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska — which swept the Badgers last year at Goodman Diamond — looming. The Cornhuskers are one slot ahead of Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings. First pitch is Friday at 5 p.m.