March 9, 2014
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Wisconsin took advantage of costly mistakes and timely hitting against Judi Garman Classic host Cal State Fullerton on Sunday morning to win 4-1, finishing the tournament with a 3-2 record.
"We knew this weekend would be one of the toughest we'd see, so whenever you come out with more wins than losses in a tournament like that, it's a big deal," UW head coach Yvette Healy said. "It's fun."
Seniors Cassandra Darrah and Michelle Mueller led the way for the Badgers.
Darrah pitched a complete game, allowing just one unearned run on four hits and striking out three. After entering the weekend with a sub-.500 record, the Corydon, Iowa, native, improved to 7-5 on the season, following three wins against, No. 7 Arizona, Long Beach State and the Titans.
"This was Cassandra's best weekend so far," Healy said. "For her to put together three wins, that's the most she's done in a weekend since we've started the 2014 season. That's what we needed from her. She did a great job changing speeds, keeping kids off balance and throwing her pitches. She and (pitching) coach (Tracie) Adix have been working really hard to get back to mid-season form and it showed this weekend."
Mueller got things rolling early on for UW (10-9), as she singled up the middle to score the speedy Maria Van Abel from second base in the top of the first inning.
While Fullerton (15-10) responded with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning, it would be all the team mustered on the day. The Titans used two errors and a bloop single to left to knot the score at ones.
The next two innings gave way to just one hit for both clubs combined--a bunt single down the third base line for Van Abel, marking her second hit of that nature in the game.
Wisconsin broke the deadlock in the fourth to back-to-back two-out hits from Ashley Van Zeeland and Taylor-Paige Stewart. Van Zeeland drove a base knock up the middle to the rally and stole second just a few pitches later. Stewart, pinch-hitting for designated player Marissa Mersch, lofted a liner into left field for her first hit of the season and the game's difference maker.
Mueller rang in her second and third RBI of the game in the fifth after the Badgers juiced the bases with an error and two HBP. The La Crosse, Wis., product, ripped a single into center field, bringing around Tancill and Massei.
Mueller finished the game with three hits in four at-bats, including a double in the seventh, while playing great hot-corner defense.
"(Michelle) was great from the plate. She really led us and carried us right from the start. We were telling her she was a beast at the plate all weekend, so it was fun to see her really step up today."
Darrah stuffed any chance Fullerton had to make a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, retiring the first two batters in two pitches and needing just three more to finish off the Titans.
Six of the Badgers' seven hits in the win came from players who grew up in Wisconsin, once again cementing the program's effort to produce homegrown talent.
"We had some good games throughout the weekend," Healy said. "Regardless of the number of wins, we were playing a little bit better softball. We've got a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make, but it was a good sign that things are going in the right direction."
Wisconsin returns home to Madison for the week before travelling to Louisville, Ky., March 14-16 for the Louisville Classic tournament where it'll play a game against Kent State two versus both Iowa State and Louisville.