MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin won its ninth and 10th-straight games in a doubleheader sweep of Penn State Saturday in University Park, Pa., shutting out the Nittany Lions, 4-0, in the first game and taking game two, 5-2.
“To play on the road is always a big deal,” UW head coach Yvette Healy. “It’s tough to get Big Ten wins on the road. Penn State, especially, has had Wisconsin’s number for a lot of years. It’s been a while since we beat Penn State on the road, so to come out and take the series really makes it special.”
A pitcher’s duel in game one led to a scoreless first three innings for both squads.
But a leadoff double by Marissa Mersch—her first of the season—in the fourth got things started for the Badgers (27-15, 9-5 Big Ten).
The Downers Grove, Ill., native proceeded to swipe third base and score on a passed ball committed by Penn State catcher Karlie Habitz.
Mersch repeated her fourth-inning antics in the sixth when she found the left center gap again for a two-bagger. Stephanie Peace singled on a bouncer through the left side, driving in Mersch, who slid in safely to beat a close play at the plate.
Chloe Miller followed the RBI single with her second home run in as many games, smashing it off the top of the scoreboard in left center field for a two-run bomb.
Penn State had its best opportunity to cut into UW’s lead in the bottom of the sixth, as Lexi Knief and Reina Furuya singled and doubled to put runners on second and third with one out.
Taylor-Paige Stewart buckled down, though, forcing a pop out to second base and fly out to left field to retire the Nittany Lions.
The sophomore finished off PSU with a one-two-three seventh inning to pick up her 11th win of the season. Stewart struck out seven and walked none in the three-hitter. Her 105 strikeouts is just one short of the team lead, which her counterpart, Cassandra Darrah, holds despite having more than 50 more innings pitched.
In game two, the Badgers capitalized on two errors in the third inning to get out to a 3-0 lead.
Megan Tancill reached on an infield single with one out, which was followed by a double by Mary Massei off the left field wall.
Mersch then tried to manufacture a run with a bunt, but she popped it up. Third baseman Sam Shanahan muffed the easy catch, though, loading the bases.
Tancill was forced out at home on Mueller’s fielder’s choice ground ball to Penn State pitcher Marlaina Laubach.
With two outs and the bases still juiced, Peace hit a lazy fly ball to left field that looked to bail Laubach out of the inning, unscathed.
Blinded by the sun, Alyssa Sovereign got a piece of the ball, but it tipped off her glove to score three runs. Peace reached third on the play.
Wisconsin added two more runs in the fourth inning, as the Nittany Lions committed another error and Massei recorded her second double of the game.
Ashley Van Zeeland led off the inning with a single up the middle and advanced to second thanks to Maria Van Abel’s sacrifice bunt.
Tancill reached on an error by second baseman Shelby Miller, as she couldn’t squeeze the catch trying to cover first base.
Massei made Penn State pay, driving in her 27th and 28th runs of the season.
The Nittany Lions responded in the fourth inning with two runs—their lone tallies of the day.
Cassandra Darrah retired nine of the final 11 batters she faced, mowing down PSU in the seventh with her only three strikeouts of the game. The senior gathered her 16th win of the season, allowing five hits and just one walk on the day.
Wisconsin pitchers anchored the team’s weekend success, allowing just two runs in the doubleheader and five total in the series.
“I give all the credit to (assistant) coach (Tracie) Adix. She’s been working with the pitchers on being competitive and being tough on the mound. I think they really set the tone this weekend and did a nice job of changing speeds and hitting their spots and keeping hitters off balance.”
The Badgers will face off with Purdue in a three-game series April 25-27. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. on Friday.