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Krueger and Massei combine to capture top play

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Anyone who was in attendance for Friday night's game at Goodman Diamond knew it was likely going to happen, but on Sunday it was confirmed by the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report.

Jennifer Krueger and Mary Massei recorded back-to-back spectacular diving catches against Ohio State to earn the Diamond Report's top play for the week.

In the Badgers' 11-3, six-inning win, OSU's Karisa Medrano led off the third by hitting a sinking liner to center field. Krueger raced in and made a diving catch on her stomach to rob Medrano of a base hit. Not to be outdone, one batter later Massei made a diving catch to her right in foul territory in left field to retire Melissa Rennie.

It's the third time this season the Badgers have been featured on the show's weekly countdown. On April 11, Meghan McIntosh was recognized as the No. 5 play for her 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader. On May 1, Stephanie Peace's diving catch against Michigan earned the No. 3 play of the week.

Watch the catches made by Krueger and Massei below.


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team_NU_2011.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about her goals for the team's final four games of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.


That's the goal right now.

We have four Big Ten games left. Our record is 27-22, 6-10 in the Big Ten. We still could get over 30 wins this season and register 10 Big Ten wins. That's a tall order with Purdue and Ohio State left to play, but it's possible. What an accomplishment that would be for this group, 30:10.

There are only five teams that have reached the 30 win mark in school history, and only two teams have ever finished the Big Ten season at or above .500 in Big Ten play. We're chasing history right now and have the chance to be one of the most successful softball teams to ever play for Wisconsin.

We have a lot of youth on the field with freshman and sophomores pitching and playing key positions. We split a tough series with Green Bay last night as our team balances end-of-year papers, tests and finals. Last night was one of our few times this year that we got beat by a team with a worse RPI than us. You never want to see that happen. To have a successful year you have to win all of the winnable games and steal a few key victories from teams that are ranked.

My wish for this group of young women is simple: play hungry every game, battle and refuse to lose. Yes we have a long season that spans four months and 56 games, but if you want to build a legacy, you can't take one pitch, one at-bat, one inning or one game for granted. You have to fight, scratch and claw to get every run, every out, and every win possible. If you have a chance to score runs in the first inning, you have to take it!

You must refuse to lose any battle. These games, these at-bats and these seasons are precious. Every one of these opportunities is a chance to see how we match up, and it's a chance to win. I hope every member of this team remembers nights like last night to motivate them at the end of this season and all summer long as they train for next year. Ninety percent of our lives are spent working, preparing and training for our challenges. When we get those few golden opportunities to compete and win and accomplish something special, we have to embrace it.

The softball program here at Wisconsin has made some huge strides this season, winning 27 games and earning the respect of top programs and coaches. We still have a huge leap to make in terms of ownership, leadership, accountability and pride. We've worked hard all year to start to build something special, to make a little history and earn a few small accomplishments. Now I want this group to battle ferociously to protect what we've worked for and to really accomplish something noteworthy down the stretch to make this season memorable.

30:10 would be an amazing thing. With four games to go, we could still reach that 30-win plateau. It's going to take each and every member of the Badger softball team to finish 2011 with 30:10. We'll need some amazing pitching, superb defense, timely offense and key hits to pull it off. We'll need to dive, steal, squeeze and defense to make it happen.

Let's finish strong and make history, together.

Peace recognized by Big Ten Network's Diamond Report

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For the second time this season, a member of the Wisconsin softball team has been highlighted by the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report for having one of the top performances of the previous week.

On April 11, Meghan McIntosh was recognized for her 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader.

Now, Stephanie Peace is being recognized for a great play she made in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Michigan. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Peace dove to her right and made a great diving stab of Caitlin Blanchard's line drive to save at least one run.

Peace's catch went down as the No. 3 play of the week, as can be seen below.

Lucas at Large: Providing a spark

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Mary Massei's perseverance has manifested itself in many ways for the Wisconsin softball team which has rallied around her presence as a "spark-plug" and a "catalyst" at the top of the order.

For starters, the spunky freshman is back in the lineup after missing 14 games; the result of an outfield collision with a teammate that left Massei with a black-eye and three facial fractures.

Since returning, Massei has nine hits in 22 at-bats, including going 5-for-7 in a two-game series against Illinois. Most recently, her three-run homer sealed the Badgers doubleheader sweep at Iowa.

"When she was gone, we definitely missed her presence," said UW coach Yvette Healy.  "Other people stepped up and we still had some quality wins. But she brings another elite bat to the lineup.

"And that makes every other hitter stronger. Mary is a little spark-plug. Somebody has to be the catalyst and embrace doing that and she's that type of kid. People want to cheer for her."

That's due in large part to Massei overcoming thyroid cancer to play for the Badgers. After learning she was cancer free in December, she enrolled at the UW in January.

Given her resiliency, it should be pretty easy for Massei to shake off Saturday's loss to Michigan.

Culture of tenacity

In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep at Iowa on Wednesday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an amazing doubleheader sweep at Iowa Wednesday night. It was our first Big ten sweep of the 2011 season and the first time the Badgers have ever swept Iowa at Iowa. I'm so proud of this group of young women.

The Wisconsin Softball team has played with a lot of energy and passion this season. We came from behind in both wins last night in Iowa. We actually tied the record for most comeback wins in school history with 14.

As a coach, you want your athletes to play hard every game, every inning and every out. You challenge them to believe in themselves and their teammates, to fight and to never give up. That culture of tenacity is being established here in Madison, and it's one of our greatest sources of pride.

We just earned our sixth Big Ten victory Wednesday night with wins this season over Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota. Whitney Massey, Mary Massei and Shannel Blackshear all had huge home runs for us. Abby Gregory provided a huge spark off the bench, utilizing her speed to score the game-winning run in the seventh inning of game one.

We're 26-19 right now as we prepare for No. 2 Michigan to come to Madison this weekend. What an exciting way to wrap up our season. We have eight games left, and we have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country at home to kick off the month of May! We know what a powerhouse Michigan softball is. We're thrilled to compete against one of the best teams in the country in front of our friends and family this weekend.

Overcoming a tough loss

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough extra-inning loss to Illinois and what the team needs to do to overcome it. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a heartbreaking loss in extra innings to Illinois today. We played our hearts out and had some huge clutch hits and pitches to give us chances to win. We pitched well and played with a ton of heart and pride. I am so proud of this group of young women. Their tenacity and fight amazes me!

I am sure all of our student-athletes and coaches are taking this loss hard. I'm sure the parents and fans are heartbroken too. When you come so close to beating top-30 teams two weekends in a row, it wears on you. These losses make you question everything. Yet just because we didn't come out on top, doesn't mean our strategy or philosophy is wrong. We didn't give anything away today. Illinois just outplayed us in extra innings. But for seven straight innings, we played tough.

McIntosh honored by Big Ten Network's Diamond Report

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Wisconsin sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh's 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader on Thursday was named the No. 4 Play of the Week on the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report, which originally aired on Sunday.

In throwing the first shutout of her career, McIntosh yielded just six hits and walked none in her sixth complete game of the year. The Sierra Vista, Ariz., native recorded a strikeout in every inning, struck out the side in the second and fanned two batters each in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

McIntosh's 13 strikeouts are the most for a Badger pitcher since Letty Olivarez tied a school record with 17 against Minnesota on May 12, 2010.

Coupled with the Badgers' 5-0 win in game one of the doubleheader, Wisconsin recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since April 26 and April 28 of 2006. In addition, in the doubleheader McIntosh and Cassandra Darrah combined to throw 21 strikeouts while issuing zero walks and giving up just eight hits in 14 innings of work.

Doubleheader sweep a team effort

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IMG_1731_BLOG_1.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep over North Dakota on Thursday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an exciting night for the Badgers. We beat North Dakota 5-0 and 7-0. Freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah set the tone in the first game pitching a two-hit shutout for her 11th win this season. Cass has thrown some great games against tough competition lately; she needed a good "W" to get some momentum. Shannel Blackshear's monster three-run home run in the sixth inning led the offense.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh had the best game of her career, striking out 13 hitters in game two. She worked ahead, trusted her pitches and looked relaxed. Great games are even more meaningful when they come after tough losses. Meg struggled in her last two outings, so to see her respond and bounce back last night was a huge character builder.

Freshman Stephanie Peace had a huge three-run homer to lead the offensive attack in the second game, with key contributions off the bench from Kelsey Horton, Ashley Hanewich and Abby Gregory. Kelsey, Ashley and Abby were a combined 3-3, with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. That's great depth!

Getting that first Big Ten win

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In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how the team split with Michigan State to win its first Big Ten game of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a great win yesterday for the Badgers at Michigan State! There was a lot of tenacity and toughness displayed by Wisconsin. I am so proud of this group of young women for their determination and competitiveness. They want to win, and we're teaching them how to create momentum.

On Saturday, we lost big and only had one hit. Our staff met, and we focused on keeping things positive and light with the team. We've had a lot of teachable moments this year. Each mental error is an opportunity to teach the game, and increase our team's softball IQ so we can become better, smarter athletes.

We were losing 3-0 early at Michigan State yesterday when the weather got worse, and we were delayed one hour and 34 minutes due to rain and hail. When the game resumed, Shannel Blackshear hit a home run to start the rally. Amanda Najdek did a great job on the mound keeping Michigan State off balance.

We won 10-4 using a lot of creative coaching to bunt, steal and pressure our way back into the game. It's always fun to beat a conference opponent when you're on the road. Our team certainly loves those dramatic, come-from-behind victories this year. We're 17-13 right now after our first 30 games. It's amazing that we've only had two home games in our first 30 contests. We're looking forward to a long homestand this week!

Tough start to Big Ten play

In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough opening weekend in Big Ten play at Penn State. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

We lost two heartbreakers on the road at Penn State this weekend to open Big Ten play. I was so proud of how hard the team battled and bought in to our game plan. We managed to get about 27 runners on base in two games against two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.

Penn State is known for its pitchers. When you play on the road against two pitchers with ERAs under 2.00, you know you're in for a battle. I was so proud of our team's tenacity and grit. We scored five runs on Saturday and two on Sunday, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning. We didn't even have our leading RBI producer on Sunday, after Mary Massei suffered a facial fracture after an outfield collision on Saturday.