Badgers action-packed first inning leads to 4-1 victory over Ill - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Badgers action-packed first inning leads to 4-1 victory over Illini

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MADISON, Wis. (Per UW Athletics) -- An eventful first inning gave the Wisconsin softball team the lead it needed to win 4-1 over Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Goodman Diamond.

“It’s great I mean they’re such a quality program,” head coach Yvette Healy said. “They’re a top-50 team and I was just happy with how much improved we looked across the board so I think it was a great effort on the mound and offensively it was just kind of a whole team effort.”

The Badgers had a rough start to the day committing a throwing error, which cost Wisconsin (24-17-1 overall, 9-6-1 Big Ten) to give up a run to Illinois and allow the Fighting Illini to take an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
 
It was equally a rough start for the Fighting Illini, who allowed senior Ashley Van Zeeland to reach base in the leadoff spot due to an error by the shortstop. Sophomore Kelsey Jenkins shot for the same place and ripped a single to the shortstop in the next at bat. Junior Chloe Miller loaded up the bags as she was hit by the pitch on a 1-2 count.
 
Wisconsin responded to Illinois' (27-19, 6-10) earlier run as sophomore Samantha Arents was walked on a four-pitch count that brought Van Zeeland in to tie the game up at 1-1.
 
Junior Sara Novak reached first base on a fielder's choice but Jenkins was called out at home for the Badgers' second out.
 
Freshman Kelly Welsh made all the difference as she blasted a two-RBI single through the left side that scored Miller and Arents and pulled the Badgers ahead, 3-1, off of two hits and one error but leaving two on base.
 
After a scoreless second inning, the Badgers had a déjà vu moment in the bottom of the third with bases loaded for the second time in the game. Freshman Melanie Cross started the inning with a powerful leadoff single through the left side while Arents reached on a fielder's choice in a close call that nearly got Cross out at second.
 
This time around it was senior Katie Christner who came up with the big RBI off of a single to left field, sending Cross in to score and further the Wisconsin lead, 4-1. UW finished the third inning with one run, two hits and three left on base.
 
The next two innings were pitching battles as both teams only gave up one hit in the fourth inning and Illinois was the only team to put up a hit in the fifth inning.
 
Junior pitcher Kirsten Stevens recorded her season-high seventh strikeout in the game in the top of the sixth inning and forced Illinois to leave two runners on the basepath.

“You know she was cruising so we figured Taylor-Paige (Stewart) was warm and she was ready to close the game if she needed, but if it’s not broken don't fix it,” Healy added. “So we were letting her go until she got into trouble but there were a couple of situations where she had multiple runners on base but she really just kept her composure and that’s fun that she could work through those tough situations and get the outs.”

The Fighting Illini saw two hits in the top of seventh but it was not enough as the Badgers secured the 4-1 win and tied up the series.
 
Stevens (10-8) earned the win pitching her fifth complete game of the season. In seven innings, she allowed only one run off of 10 hits and walked just one batter.

“I haven’t really pitched a lot of full games this season," Stevens said. "A lot of our go-to style for pitching has been combo so I was pitching really well this game so they decided to keep on pushing it with each inning. I felt really good. I usually don’t get a lot of strikeouts typically too so today was such a great day.”

Illinois outhit Wisconsin 10-6 as six different Badgers logged one single hit.
 
Welsh led the team with a game-high two RBI while both Christner and Arents tallied one RBI apiece.

“It feels really good, I’m not really sure why but whenever it comes to better competition the pressure is on I pitch better and it felt really good playing against such a good offensive team such as Illinois so I just made sure this week that we made good adjustments, studied a lot of film to make sure that today was brisk,” Stevens said.

The Badgers conclude the series against Illinois tomorrow at 1 p.m. during the Badgers' annual Get to Goodman game at Goodman Diamond. As part of Fan Appreciation Day, tickets are available for $1 with Get to Goodman festivities beginning when the gates open at 12 p.m.

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