Two hours of rain delays weren’t enough to keep No. 21 Wisconsin from earning a series sweep over Iowa Sunday evening at The Goodman softball complex.
The Badgers (7-2 Big Ten, 30-5 overall) took the rubber match 4-2 over the Hawkeyes (1-8 Big Ten, 15-18 overall) thanks to aggressive baserunning and strong defense throughout the game.
Freshman first baseman Kayla Konwent got the offense started in the bottom of the first inning with a single, extending her hit streak to seven games. After another single from catcher Taylor Johnson, Stephanie Lombardo drove them both in with a two-run sacrifice fly to give the Badgers an early 2-0 lead. The Iowa Hawkeyes quickly fired back, stringing together three straight hits and two runs off Badgers starting pitcher Haley Hestekin to tie the game at 2-2.
The Badgers got the lead back in the bottom of the second thanks to sophomore Lauren Foster’s long solo home run to center off Iowa starter Allison Doocy. Foster knew she had to focus on her at-bats against a starter of Doocy’s caliber.
“She’s a really good pitcher,” Foster said. “Her riseball is nasty, so I was just thinking ‘see it down, see it down’, and I got a pitch I could hit.”
Doocy, who also started Friday night’s game, would go the distance for her 16th complete game of 2019 in the losing effort. The right-hander had the Wisconsin offense figured out on Sunday, but the Badgers scratched another run in the bottom of the fifth inning via the double steal. With runners on first and third, Iowa catcher Abby Lien was baited into throwing down to second base, allowing Konwent to hustle home from third base and extend the UW lead to 4-2.
Wisconsin turned to junior pitcher Kaitlyn Menz on the mound in the fourth inning, who rested Saturday after throwing six innings in Friday night’s contest. Menz escaped both a one-out single and a two-out single in the top of the fourth — third baseman Jolie Fish made a nice play on a slow roller to retire the side. Menz credited her strong outing to faith in her infielders.
“It was super awesome to have the defense behind me,” Menz said. “It was nice without the offensive support today to know that my defense could make plays.”
Menz held the Hawkeyes bats silent over the next three innings, earning Wisconsin a series sweep and their 30th win of the season. Iowa actually outhit Wisconsin 8-5 in the game, but costly misplays and mental slips allowed the Badgers to pad their lead with each opportunity.
“We can build confidence and trust from this series,” Foster said. “We came together as a team and knew this game wouldn’t be easy, so winning all three of these games is really big for us.”
Wisconsin will head next to Evanston, Illinois to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (9-0 Big Ten, 29-7 overall) in a matchup with big implications in the conference race. The Badgers will have their work cut out for them at the plate; Northwestern has held their opponent to two runs or less in each of their last seven games.
The 30th win of the year, in the Badgers’ 35th game, set a program record for the fastest to 30 wins.