Wisconsin Opens Series with Doubleheader Sweep
April 11, 2014
Madison, Wis. - Illinois' struggles in Big Ten play continued tonight, as Wisconsin defeated the Illini in a pair of conference games this evening at Goodman Diamond. The first game was a neck-and-neck battle, in which both teams squandered several opportunities to score, but it was the Badgers who would come out on top, winning 3-2 with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. Senior Michelle Mueller then went on a tear in game two, crushing three home runs for a total of eight RBI to lead Wisconsin past Illinois, 10-3, in the nightcap. With the sweep, Wisconsin improves to 21-15 (5-5 Big Ten), while the Illini drop to 18-17 (2-9 Big Ten).
Alex Booker had just one hit on the day, but followed it by stealing home to tie the score late in game one. Meanwhile, Jenna Mychko had a strong day behind the plate, throwing out runners stealing to end back-to-back innings in game two.
However, Illinois' bats struggled in the big moments, hitting just .200 (4-for-20) with runners in scoring position. Uncharacteristically shaky defense, including a season-worst five errors in game two, also weakened the Fighting Illini and led to four unearned runs over the doubleheader.
"In the first game today, we didn't make plays, we didn't defend well or take the outs we were given," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "Along with that, our offense was quiet. You won't win many games with that combination, nor should you; you have to earn W's and make your opponent earn them as well.
"In game two, Mueller put her team on her back; you have to give that type of performance credit. Our poor defense hurt us as well. We have been a little too distracted with what we haven't done in Big Ten play so far, and we need to get back on track playing our game and playing to our capabilities. I'm confident we will do just that."
Game 1: Wisconsin 3, Illinois 2 | Box Score (PDF)
Both teams squandered scoring chances, as Wisconsin and Illinois combined to leave 19 runners on base, but a walk-off RBI single by Maria Van Abel led the Badgers past the Illini, 3-2, in the series opener.
Allie Bauch led the Illini at the plate, going 2-for-4, and Alex Booker singled and stole home in the sixth. Ruby Rivera doubled, stole second to set up Booker's steal of home, and picked up the only Illini RBI, sending pinch runner Danielle Trezzo across the plate after Remeny Perez singled in the sixth. Nicole Evans went 1-for-2 with a stolen base and a walk, and Kylie Johnson had the remaining Illinois hit in the seventh.
Mary Massei could not make an out, going 3-for-3 with two walks, one intentional, and an RBI, while Chloe Miller was 2-for-4 with an RBI and the game-winning run. Stephanie Peace doubled and scored the first run of the game, and Maria Van Abel drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh. Additionally, Megan Tancill was 2-for-2 with a stolen base.
Cassandra Darrah improved to 12-10, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk in the full seven innings, striking out two. Brandi Needham (13-8), went the distance for the Illini, allowing three runs on 11 hits and three walks, one intentional, with five strikeouts over six and two-thirds.
The Badgers had several chances to score early in the game, loading the bases with less than two outs in three of the first four innings, but Needham came through with a pair of clutch strikeouts and a 1-2-3 double play to keep Wisconsin off the board through four.
However, Wisconsin successfully plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, as Peace led off with a double to the corner in left. Novak moved her to third with a ground out to the right side, and Miller picked up the first RBI of the game, ripping a comebacker off Needham in the circle to drive in Peace. Mercsh walked to load the bases, and Massei then doubled the Badger lead with an RBI single to third.
The Illini answered in the top of the sixth, scoring two runs of their own on two hits and three stolen bases. Perez got things started with a hit by pitch. Booker singled up the middle, and Mychko went for a sacrifice bunt. The Wisconsin defense tried to throw out the lead runner but was not in time, loading the bases with nobody out. Rivera then chopped one off the pitcher's glove to plate the first Illini run of the game. In a first-and-third situation, she started for second, drawing the throw as Booker took off for home and tied the game on a successful double steal. Evans continued the inning with a single, but Wisconsin kept the Illini from taking the lead by turning an unconventional 2-3-2 double play on a swinging bunt by Jade Vecvanags to get Rivera at the plate and end the inning.
Illinois had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh, as Johnson and Bauch hit a pair of one-out singles, but Darrah got the next two batters to pop up to erase the threat.
Wisconsin got it done in the bottom of the seventh, as Miller started things off with a one-out single up the middle. Tancill singled to short, before Needham struck out Mersch for the second out. She pitched around Massei load the bases, but unlike in the previous innings, the Badgers finally succeeded in scoring with the bases loaded, as Von Abel grounded sharply to third, driving in Miller to give Wisconsin the walk-off victory, 3-2.
Game 2: Wisconsin 10, Illinois 3 | Box Score (PDF)
Senior third baseman Michelle Mueller singlehandedly led the Badgers past the Illini in game two, crushing three home runs for a school-record eight RBI as Wisconsin defeated Illinois, 10-3, in the second game of the night. The Illini put together eight hits, including three doubles, but stranded nine runners on base, and a disappointing display by the defense, which totaled five errors in the game, led to the Illini's fourth-straight loss.
Michelle Mueller went a perfect 4-for-4, hitting home runs to left, center and right field, and driving in the first eight runs for Wisconsin. Four of those runs were scored by Mary Massei, who was 1-for-3 with a walk, while Maria Van Abel scored twice. Stephanie Peace registered the only other Badger RBI, hitting a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Remeny Perez led the Illini at the plate in game two, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk, and Allie Bauch was once again 2-for-4. Nicole Evans doubled and scored, and Jade Vecvanags walked, doubled, scored and drove in a run. Kylie Johnson had an RBI single in the fourth, and Ruby Rivera added the remaining Illini hit.
Shelese Arnold (4-8) started in the circle for the Illini, but lasted just an inning and a third, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks. Jade Vecvanags tossed four and two-thirds innings in relief, allowing six runs, three earned, on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
Taylor-Paige Stewart (9-5) earned the win for the Badgers, allowing three runs, two earned, on eight hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over the full seven innings.
The Illini began the game with back-to-back singles, but Stewart used two strikeouts and a pop up to close out the frame.
The Badgers then got on the board in the bottom of the first, as Massei hit a line drive off Bauch's glove at second, and Mueller crushed a two-run homer to left center.
Arnold got the first out of the second inning, but then walked Massei and Peace, leading Coach Sullivan to make a pitching change. Vecvanags replaced her in the circle, but allowed Mueller a repeat performance, this time to right center, to make it 5-0 Wisconsin.
Illinois fought back in the top of the fourth, as Mychko led off with a walk. Evans ripped a double down the left-field line, then Vecvanags followed with an RBI double to left center. Evans originally held up at third, but the shortstop skied the relay over the catcher, as Evans came in to score and Vecvanags moved up to third. Johnson then drove in a third run with an RBI single to short, to cut the Badgers' lead to two, 5-3.
Wisconsin got three back in the bottom half, as Van Abel walked, Massei got on by error, and Mueller went deep for the third time, this time smashing a three-run bomb off the top of the scoreboard in straightaway center.
Sloppy defense in the bottom of the sixth led to a pair of unearned Wisconsin runs. Van Abel led off on first due to an error at short, then Massei singled to right, and Johnson let the ball get past her, leading to a run and putting Massei on third. Peace then made it 10-3 with a sacrifice fly, before Bauch turned a double play to end the inning.
The Illini loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on singles by Bauch and Rivera, but left them that way for a final score of 10-3.
Next Up: Illinois returns to Goodman Diamond on Saturday, April 12, to conclude the three-game series with the Badgers. Game time is set for Noon.