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Home sweep home: Badgers sneak past Illinois in series finale

Game Photo
Illinois Wisconsin 3, Illinois 2
Goodman Diamond • Madison, Wis. • Attendance: 497

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2
6 0
2 0 0 0 0 1 X 3 7
W Darrah (13-10) 7.0 6 2 2 0 10
L Needham (13-9) 6.0 7 3 3 1 1
 Batting Leaders
 • Ashley Van Zeeland: Two hits, game-winning RBI
 • Mary Massei: Double, run
 • Stephanie Peace: Single, run, stolen base
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April 12, 2014

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin dodged any rain in the forecast on Saturday afternoon, picking up its fifth-straight win defeating Illinois, 3-2, to cap off a three-game series sweep of the Fighting Illini at Goodman Diamond.

“We said going into the Big Ten season, for how good the conference is, ‘Don’t get swept by anyone else and sweep a few,’ UW head coach Yvette Healy explained. “Even though this is our first Big Ten conference series win, they did it in a great fashion in front of the fans. I think it has everything to do with a big crowd, lots of kids out here. The support of everybody coming out makes it easier for the team to play well.”

 Fast Facts
• Badgers have won their past seven contests against the Fighting Illini
Cassandra Darrah recorded 10 strikeouts
• UW improved to 6-2 at Goodman Diamond this year

UW (22-15, 6-5) got on the board early, but not often in the win.

Mary Massei and Stephanie Peace led off the contest with a screaming double off the left field wall and single to left, respectively, on back-to-back pitches from Illinois (18-18, 2-10) thrower Brandi Needham.

With runners on first and third and no outs, Michelle Mueller did what she does best, driving in Massei for her 18th RBI in five games this week.

Chloe Miller added to the Wisconsin lead, singling home Peace on a grounder that snuck into right field.

That would be all the scoring the Badgers would do until the sixth inning when Ashley Van Zeeland used her speed to record a two-out infield single, which brought home the game winner.

Mueller walked to begin the inning and advanced to third on a Miller sacrifice bunt and Marissa Mersch ground out.

Down to its last out of the inning, Van Zeeland chopped one over the pitcher’s outstretched glove and to Allie Bauch at second base, but the Badgers’ sophomore was too quick to retire.

“Our coach just tells us to put it on the ground and run it out,” Van Zeeland said. “That’s what I worked on all week. In practice we were working on pounding the ball into the ground because we have a hard infield out there. When big hitters get on, we have to bring them around.”

It was truly a team effort from UW who gathered RBI from three different players today—a much different outcome than yesterday’s Game 2 box score, which was dominated by Mueller’s eight RBI.

Wisconsin even remixed its usual game plan of getting the small-ball hitters on base to be driven in by the power hitters. Instead, a power hitter (Mueller) reached safely and was driven in by a small-ball hitter (Van Zeeland) for the game-winning run.

“Our short-game kids are putting the ball in play and pressuring, so you have to be proud of your Wisconsin kids from Kaukauna like Ashley Van Zeeland,” Healy noted. “(Megan) Tancill did really well, too—she’s a Wisconsin kid. We’ve had some great walk-ons from in state play really hard and come up clutch as of late.”

In a game that produced just five runs, it’s no surprise that both pitchers, especially Cassandra Darrah, were impressive in the circle.

The senior gave up two runs on six hits, while striking out 10—two shy of her career high—and not allowing any freebies. Darrah picked up her second win of the weekend and 13th this season.

In three games, Wisconsin pitchers held 2013 All-Big Ten second-team left fielder Alex Booker to just 1-for-11 at the plate for an average of .091. The senior entered the weekend batting .429 with 11 extra base hits (five doubles, three triples and three home runs) and a team-leading 23 RBI.

“This is a great start to our winning streak and we just need to keep it going,” Van Zeeland said.

Wisconsin will finish its non-conference slate with a Wednesday doubleheader against Green Bay at Goodman Diamond. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

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