UW hangs with top-seeded Oregon before falling late, 6-1 - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW hangs with top-seeded Oregon before falling late, 6-1

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EUGENE, Ore. -- If they hadn’t proven it already this season with big wins over Michigan and Nebraska, the Badgers showed Saturday that they can play with anybody. Through five innings, No. 25 Wisconsin (35-19) was locked in a 1-1 tie with No. 1 Oregon (51-7-1) before finally giving up a big inning and falling 6-1 in the NCAA Regionals.
“Of course it’s heart-breaking in the end, but what a game,” head coach Yvette Healy said after the Badgers evened their 2014 NCAA tournament record at 1-1. “I’m proud of our kids. They hung in there with the No. 1 team in the nation and really fought.”
With the loss the Badgers will now turn around and play an elimination game at 7 p.m. (CT) Saturday against the winner of the 4 p.m. Albany vs. Utah Valley game.
Armed with a game plan to wear down Oregon’s pitcher Cheridan Hawkins (31-4), a national player of the year finalist, the Badgers needed a strong effort from starting pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart (14-6) to keep them in the game and the sophomore responded.
Stewart stranded eight Oregon base runners in the first three innings and surrendered just one early run to keep the potent Ducks offense at bay.
Oregon would leave the bases loaded in the first inning when Stewart got Alexa Peterson out on a soft liner to first to end the threat. In the second inning, the Ducks again put two runners on with just one out, but Stewart induced a pair of ground balls to wriggle off the hook and keep the game scoreless. Oregon would finally scratch across a run in the third when Peterson knocked in Janie Takeda on a sharp single. However, UO would get nothing further, again stranding the bases loaded.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the fourth, Badgers’ lead-off hitter Stephanie Peace tied the game up with a solo homer to left field on a 1-0 pitch from Hawkins. Peace’s 10th round tripper of the season quieted the Oregon crowd of 1,656 and gave UW its first hit of the day.
“I thought Steph Peace played a great game,” Healy said. “Coach (Randy) Schneider did the lineup and had a gut feeling that she’d match up really well at the top and he was right. She was feisty at the plate and I think that paid off with the ball she hit over the fence.”
With the game still tied in the bottom of the sixth, Stewart ran into trouble, loading the bases on a walk and a pair of singles. Healy brought in senior pitcher Cassandra Darrah to try to escape the jam, but Takeda’s double to the wall in left center brought in a pair of runs and pushed Oregon ahead 3-1.
“Takeda’s that good, put the credit on her,” Healy explained. “She’s an all-american and had two hits on the day. I’m super proud of both of our pitchers, but Takeda is a nice hitter and that’s why she’s in the three-spot for the No. 1 team in the country.”
An illegal pitch brought in Oregon’s third run of the inning and set up a two-run blast from Janelle Lindvall to give the Ducks a commanding 6-1 lead.
Stewart would return to finish off the sixth inning and ended up allowing 4 earned runs in 6.0 innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 walks and striking out 3. Hawkins went the distance for Oregon allowing 1 run on 2 hits in 7.0 innings. Hawkins walked 1 and struck out 11. 
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