Badger softball earns 5-4 victory over Iowa - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badger softball earns 5-4 victory over Iowa

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MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin women's softball team used two powerful innings to close out its game against Iowa with a 5-4 win on Saturday afternoon at Goodman Diamond. The Badgers (17-21 overall, 2-8 Big Ten) logged four runs in the final two innings to take the walk-off victory in the seventh.

The Cardinal and White outhit Iowa (13-31, 4-9), 10-6, and committed no errors while the Hawkeyes tallied one miscue. Junior Taylor-Paige Stewart was powerful on both sides of the game, throwing eight strikeouts in seven innings pitched and hitting her first-career home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh and tie up the game at 4-4.

"Right from the mound we got great leadership from Taylor-Paige (Stewart)," UW head coach Yvette Healy said. "She came out strong, she was moving the ball around using her pitches. She had the composure and the effort today.

"When you see your pitcher diving for a popup and catching one early in the game, it just made us so excited for her. So that gave us confidence to put her in in the last inning to come up with the big hit. She was a one-man wrecking ball today."

Senior Marissa Mersch led the team with two hits, while eight others put up one hit each. Five Badgers recorded an RBI, and senior Maria Van Abel and freshman Kelsey Jenkins both stole a base for UW.

Two strikeouts to start the game from Stewart and a ground out from the Hawkeyes kept Iowa scoreless after one. That set up the opportunity for the Badgers to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Mersch singled to right field and Jenkins followed with a walk. Junior Ashley Van Zeeland stepped up to the plate and drilled an RBI single to give UW a 1-0 lead.

Both teams went scoreless in the second, with the Badgers leaving three runners on base after two hits including a single to right field from sophomore Nyah Rodman and a single through left field for Van Abel.

The Hawkeyes took control of the game in the top of the third, as Holly Hoffman hit a two-RBI double to put the Hawkeyes on top, 2-1. Kaitlyn Mullarkey then drilled a long ball over the left center field fence for a two-run home run to give Iowa a 4-1 lead.

Wisconsin couldn't counter in the third as the Badgers went down in order to go into the fourth frame trailing by three runs.

The Hawkeyes had a 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth, and the Badgers left two on base after Jenkins drew a hit by pitch and Van Zeeland advanced to first on an illegal pitch.

In the sixth inning, back-to-back singles from senior Megan Tancill and junior Stefanni LaJeunesse put runners on first and second with Van Abel at the plate. She reached first on a fielder's choice as LaJeunesse was tagged out at second.

Van Abel stole second and with Tancill on third, Mersch stepped up to the plate and drilled a single to right field to bring in one run and make it 4-2. Sophomore Chloe Miller followed with a sac fly to left field that brought in Van Abel for Wisconsin's third run of the day to pull UW within one, 4-3.

In the top of the seventh frame, the Badgers recorded a stellar double play as LaJeunesse tagged a batter out at first and then hit Van Zeeland at second for the force-out. The last Hawkeye popped it up to third for the final out as Wisconsin held Iowa scoreless in the top of the inning to keep the run-deficit at one.

Stewart came in to pinch hit for freshman Brianna Flugaur, and stepped up big time as she slammed a home run for the first bomb of her career to tie it up at 4-4. Junior Katie Christner followed with a single to left field and Tancill reached base due to an error on Iowa's pitcher that advanced Christner to third.

LaJeunesse was hit by pitch to load the bases for UW and it was Van Abel's turn at the dish. Van Abel reached on a fielder's choice as Christner made it home for the walk-off 5-4 victory.

"It's such a tough conference and every team is great," Healy said. "Anyone can look at the Big Ten and realize that there is never going to be an easy game, it doesn't matter what team you're facing.

"Everything today was about being at home. Having our home crowd going into the bottom of the seventh chasing one, when you have stands full of people and screaming and cheering kids it goes a long way with our team. They gave so much effort today and it was such a great team win."

The Badgers and the Hawkeyes close out the three-game series on Sunday at Goodman Diamond in a 3 p.m. (CT) contest.
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