Where has this been all year?
With the postseason right around the corner, Wisconsin softball (9-8 Big Ten, 25-19 overall) churned out their best series of the season, stunning Nebraska (8-11, 30-20) with a three-game sweep in Lincoln. The Badgers completely overwhelmed the Cornhuskers, out-hitting them 34-14 over the weekend.
After a tough doubleheader sweep at the hands of Minnesota earlier in the week, Wisconsin was sitting low in the Big Ten standings with little momentum. Their first three game sweep of the season — culminating with a run-ahead rule-inducing 11-2 win in the Sunday finale — couldn’t have come at a better time or in better fashion.
The series opener set the tone for the entire weekend. Wisconsin started the scoring right away, plating one in the first thanks to back-to-back hits by Kelsey Jenkins and Brooke Wyderski. The two seniors combined to reach base six times on the day, but were still upstaged by freshman infielder Taylor Johnson.
Johnson’s two home runs helped the Badgers pull away after the Huskers tied the game at one run apiece in the second. The first bomb came in the third, scoring Jenkins, Wyderski. Her second homer of the day came in the top of the seventh, an emphatic stamp on a 6-1 victory.
Commanding the game on the other side of the ball for Wisconsin was fellow freshman Haley Hestekin. Hestekin, who earned a win in the second game of the series as well, allowed only four earned runs over her fourteen innings of work in Lincoln.
Saturday’s game two felt like a continuation of the first in many ways. The Badgers rolled early and didn’t let up, scoring four runs in the first, two in the fourth, four in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Seven players hit safely led by Jenkins with a double, two singles and five RBI. Hestkin struggled early, allowing three runs in the first inning, but settled down and controlled the Huskers lineup from then on out. She held Nebraska to just five hits on the day, securing the series win with an 11-4 victory.
Facing Nebraska’s ace in the rubber match, with the series win already guaranteed, Wisconsin put forth their best performance of the weekend — an absolute drubbing of the Cornhuskers that was ended in the sixth inning.
Upperclassmen shined this time around, as juniors Stephanie Lombardo and Gabby Scherle and seniors Wyderski and Jenkins each had multiple base knocks. The Badgers led 6-0 after three innings, highlighted by a three-run blast by Jenkins. By the time Scherle doubled in the sixth to make it an 11-2 game, the Badgers had put an exclamation point on their first series win against the Cornhuskers in program history.
Next up for Wisconsin is a crucial three-game set at home against Northwestern. With the sweep against Nebraska, Wisconsin moved into the top half of the Big Ten standings. Northwestern, winners of seven of their last eight, is currently two slots ahead of the Badgers in the conference standings heading into the last regular season series of the year. First pitch is Friday at 5 p.m. at Goodman Diamond.