URBANA, Ill. -- Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for the Wisconsin softball team Saturday afternoon as a 5-2 win over Illinois earned the Badgers a series sweep on the opening weekend of Big Ten play and extended their school record for consecutive victories. UW posted a 5-1 win over the Illini in the day's first game at Eichelberger Field to set a school record with 12-consecutive wins.
Badgers win 13th-straight game
UW opens Big Ten season 3-0
Wiscconsin improves to 25-3
Wisconsin (25-3 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) tallied a win on Friday over the Illini (10-15, 0-3) to open league play with a 3-0 record for just the fourth time in school history and first time since 2005.
It is a start to the Big Ten season that head coach Yvette Healy is happy about.
"It was a great opening weekend for us," said Healy. "We have been on the road a lot in the pre-Big Ten season and to be able to continue playing well on the road is really important, especially with the weather.
"We know we are going to lose some home games and home series (due to weather), even in the Big Ten. So it is really important to play well on the road."
In the first game of the day, Illinois wasted no time applying the pressure on the Badgers. The Illini quickly scored a run in the first inning, forcing UW to play from behind for just the ninth time this season.
UW overtook Illinois in the third inning when --with the bases loaded -- Michelle Mueller hit a single to right-center to score a pair of runs and give the Badgers a 2-1 advantage.
Mueller recorded her third RBI of the game in the fifth inning, putting UW up 3-1, and a sacrifice fly by Mary Massei in the sixth added another Badger run. A solo home run by Whitney Massey in the seventh solidified the Badgers' 5-1 win.
Meghan McIntosh picked up her first Big Ten win of the season, pitching all seven innings and allowing just one run on three hits.
Cassandra Darrah followed McIntosh's performance in the second game, earning her second league win in seven innings of work.
The duo's performance on the mound impressed Healy.
"The pitchers were really impressive (this weekend)," said Healy. "They stood out. When they can limit the amount of hits the opponents have it takes a lot of the pressure off our hitters and the defense. I thought we did a good job leading from the mound."
In the second game, Illinois again struck first, scoring a run in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Wisconsin's offense stayed quiet until the fifth inning when one big swing by Shannel Blackshear changed the game. Blackshear, who had walked in her previous two at bats, belted a two-run home run over the center field fence to give UW a 2-1 lead.
Blackshear's long ball was clutch when the Badgers needed it most.
"Offensively, we were really efficient," said Healy. "The girls were clutch, they came up with hits when we needed to, they were really unselfish and found ways to advance runners and get RBI. It is really a tribute to the offense that they could string together hits when it counts most."
The Badgers used the long ball again in the sixth to extend their lead. Stefanni LaJeunesse entered the game to pinch hit and recorded her first career homer to give the Badgers a 3-1 lead.
UW added two more runs on three more hits to extend its lead to 5-1 in the top of the sixth.
Illinois took advantage of a UW error in the bottom half of the inning to score a run before the Badgers closed out the game in the seventh.
"To put together a lot of runs on the road against a quality opponent like Illinois is really exciting," finished Healy.
The Badgers outscored Illinois 18-4 over the three-game series, recording 23 hits to the Illini's 10. UW's pitchers, Darrah and McIntosh, recorded a combined 0.67 ERA, holding Illinois to a .130 batting average.
With the status of Wednesday's Northwestern series yet to be determined, Wisconsin looks to continue its winning ways with a Big Ten series against Iowa, March 29-30. The league series, originally scheduled to be held in Madison, will take place in Iowa City. Start time on Friday will be at 4 p.m.