Home-openers bittersweet for Badgers

first_imgIn the first game of Wisconsin’s home opener against Loyola, the Badgers’ bats awoke in a flurry, scoring five runs in the fourth inning of a 9-4 trouncing of the Ramblers. During the nightcap, though, UW’s bats fell dormant.While the Badger offense struggled in the second game, senior Jennifer Krueger put on an all-night clinic, going a combined 6-for-6 in the doubleheader. Krueger reached on two errors as well, but from the beginning it was evident the Ramblers had no answer to Krueger’s speed on the base path. Reaching base eight times, Krueger put herself in position to score constantly and stole three bases.“I just knew if I put the ball in play they would have a hard time getting me out,” Krueger said. “That’s all I was focusing on; I didn’t care when it went or what happened. I just put the ball in play and ran as hard as I could.”While Krueger excelled in both games, the Badgers offense as a team showed its resilience more in the opening game. Trailing for more than half of the game, sophomore Meghan McIntosh received all the run support she needed when the Badgers cranked out five runs to take the lead for good.“I really had confidence in them; even though I gave up some runs, I knew my team would back me up,” McIntosh said.“After the home run by Shanel [Blackshear], Coach [Yvette] Healy told me to just shut them down and put some zeroes up on the board. Once the team got going offensively, my confidence got bolstered by them.”While McIntosh showed grit all day on the mound by working her way out of tight situations, the big fourth inning showed the great capabilities of the Badger offense. Bringing eight hitters to the plate, the Badgers received an RBI triple from freshman Stephanie Peace, while Blackshear highlighted the inning with a two-run homer that landed past the left field fences.“You can get emotional and crumble after adversity,” Healy said. “With how young our team is, that win was big when they bounced back and scored runs. I’m really proud of the approach of this team. We’re not the most talented team in the country, but we battle back. Everyone’s getting better; there’s a lot of exciting things happening with Wisconsin softball.”In a battle of aces in the second game, the Badgers fell victim to the shutout effort of the Ramblers’ Brittany Gardner, losing 4-0. The Badgers showed early glimpses of jumping on Gardner, loading the bases in two straight innings but never scoring a run.“We needed to make adjustments offensively; we had runners in scoring position a lot and we didn’t pull through,” Krueger said. “We need someone to step up in that situation consistently; if we put up three on them right away they probably would never have gotten locked in. We needed to get momentum and keep it.”Healy echoed a similar sentiment but understood that with the early success in the first game the Badgers may have fallen asleep at the wheel for the second game.“We couldn’t push a key hit across,” Healy said. “I think after winning the first game and scoring a lot of runs the team wasn’t as focused in on the urgency of scoring. As a team you get lulled a little; not everyone grasped at the time that the moment to capitalize was early on. I don’t think we were zoned in like we needed to be at that point.”True freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah was on the mound for the second game and brought a no hitter into the fifth inning, only to be broken by the Ramblers’ Lauren Zaworski on a home run.“Once they put that run on the board, everyone stopped being loose,” Healy said. “Everyone started feeling that we had a zero and stressed. I think you have to try to not do too much with the ball. For our girls we scored a lot of runs early, and people are trying to hit it out of the park. I think you just have to hit the ball where it’s pitched and string hits together.”While the Badgers split the series, the players are taking away the positives from the first game, particularly their ability to claw their way back into games.“We’ll get those key hits,” McIntosh said. “We can come back when we’re down.”“It was a tough loss; we wanted to win for Coach really bad,” Krueger said. “But we won’t dwell on it; we’re right back to playing this weekend.”last_img