MADISON, Wis. -- In front of the second-largest home crowd in school history, the Wisconsin softball team tied a school record by winning its 13th consecutive game, defeating Purdue (25-25-1, 12-8 Big Ten), 7-3. On a day when the Badgers honored their senior class, all four seniors played key roles in the victory.
“Senior Day last year we really didn’t perform that well,” UW head coach Yvette Healy said. “For this group, they just wanted to show that in front of a lot of fans they could play well, which is going to be important down the stretch.”
The Badgers (30-15, 12-5 Big Ten) trailed 2-0 heading to the bottom of the third and had just one single in the first two frames. That changed in a hurry. Megan Tancill led off the inning with a blast to left field and legged out a triple. Up next, senior Mary Massei knocked a single up the middle for UW’s first run.
Purdue looked like it may get out of the inning, as senior Stephanie Peace came to bat with two outs and runners on first and third. Peace had other ideas, sending a charge into the 1,371 fans by slamming a three-run blast to left field to give the Badgers a lead they would not relinquish. It was Peace’s eighth home run of the season and 21st of her career, tied for third-most in school history.
“It’s nice when runners get on ahead of you,” Peace said. “You just know you have to hit a ball hard and they’ll score runs for you. I came up and was just looking for a pitch to drive hard and happened to get one that I ran into.”
UW added two runs in the next inning on just one hit. Marissa Mersch and Katie Christner walked to lead off the inning. Mersch advanced to third on Tancill’s fly out to right field. The Badgers then executed a text book double steal, with Mersch stealing home. Massei came through again, driving in her second run of the game with a single to left.
Purdue would not go quietly, scoring one run in the top of the sixth but senior Cassandra Darrah escaped the inning without any further damage. With the bases full of Boilermakers and a 3-2 count on Kristen Hoppman, Darrah got a called third strike to get out of the inning.
Senior Michelle Mueller got that run back in the bottom of the inning, singling home Ashley Van Zeeland to tie the UW single-season record with her 49th run batted in.
Darrah began this senior day on the bench but after starting pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart gave up two runs in 2 2/3 innings, Healy turned to her senior leader. Darrah responded, retiring seven of the first eight batters she faced and allowing just three hits to collect her 18th win of the season.
Darrah’s classmates, Massei, Mueller and Peace combined to go 6-for-9 and drive in six runs.
“I’ve never seen seniors play so well on Senior Day,” Healy said. “They really carried the team.”
Wisconsin has now won at least 30 games for the fourth-straight season and the ninth time in school history. Prior to head coach Yvette Healy taking over at UW, Wisconsin had won at least 30 games in a season five times. The Badgers have now won at least 30 games in each of Healy’s first four seasons.
The win was also the Badgers’ 12th Big Ten victory of the season, good for third-best in school history, trailing only the 2013 (16) and 2012 (13) seasons. The 13-straight wins ties the school record set last season from March 2-23.
Wisconsin hosts Nebraska in a doubleheader on Wednesday, the Badgers’ final home series of the season. The first game will start at 3 p.m. Both games will be televised by BTN and BTN2Go.