CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three times the game was on the line, and three times the Badgers came up big Sunday in a 6-5, 11-inning win over Notre Dame at the First Pitch Classic in Charlotte, N.C.
“Notre Dame is such a legacy program and to be able to go 11 innings with them and go toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in the country, we are so proud,” UW head coach Yvette Healy said.
• Christner, Blackshear and Massei hit 2-run home runs
• UW opens season with 4-1 record
• Darrah improves to 3-0 on season
The game was scoreless through the first seven innings, with the Badgers (4-1) recording just one hit to Notre Dame’s (1-2) five in regulation.
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Katie Christner came up big with her first collegiate home run, scoring Marissa Mersch to tie the game 2-2.
The Badgers then found themselves down by two in the ninth, and a two-run home run by Shannel Blackshear tied the game at four.
Then, in the 11th inning with Wisconsin down 5-4, Mary Massei belted the game-winning homer to score Maria Van Abel from second base and win the game for Wisconsin.
“A freshman like Katie Christner comes back and hits a two-run homer when all hope is almost lost,” Healy said. “She really sparked it, and then Shannel Blackshear and Mary Massei doing the same thing in two other innings, it just shows this team has talent, but more so they have a lot of fight and a lot of heart.”
Cassandra Darrah went the distance in the circle, pitching 11 innings, striking out 10 and walking two. Darrah gave up 12 hits and allowed just three earned runs. The junior pitcher allowed two hits in the first inning before buckling down and limiting the Irish offense, holding them to just three more hits in regulation.
“Cass (Cassandra Darrah) was great on the mound, she had a phenomenal weekend. She really is evolving into a great pitcher,” said Healy.
Notre Dame threatened in the third inning, but the Badgers got out of the frame with an Irish runner stranded at third base.
In the fifth inning, Notre Dame had a runner in scoring position, but a heads-up play at home by Stephanie Peace got an out at the plate and saved a run.
The Badgers found themselves in a similar situation in the sixth, but a big strikeout by Darrah ended Notre Dame’s scoring threat.
Darrah got a strikeout, fly out and ground out in the seventh to hold the Irish offense and force extra innings.
Wisconsin wrapped up its opening weekend with a 4-1 record, scoring 30 runs on 49 hits -- including six home runs and five doubles. The Badgers’ pitchers allowed just 13 runs over five games, striking out 34 and walking 12.
The Badgers will take next weekend off before traveling to Orlando, Fla., Feb. 22-24 for the Diamond 9 Tournament. UWBadgers.com will have updated opponents and times for the tournament as soon as they are made available.