One year ago, a critical series loss to Northwestern cost Wisconsin a chance at the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats grabbed the Big Ten's last at-large bid by way of a slightly higher RPI, and the Badgers were left home.
Friday afternoon at Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., fourth-seeded Wisconsin (40-11) gained revenge with a 3-0 win over fifth-seeded Northwestern (31-22). Junior right-hander Cassandra Darrah tossed a full seven innings of scoreless, four-hit ball, striking out eight batters while walking just three. The Badgers notched just three hits compared to the Wildcats' four, though the three -- one single apiece from Whitney Massei, Shannel Blackshear and Ashley Van Zeeland -- were enough to supplement Northwestern's three errors.
Wisconsin moves onto the semifinals and will face the winner of top-seeded Michigan and eighth-seeded Ohio State at 2 p.m. CT Saturday. That game, as with the other semifinal game and the championship game on Sunday, will be televised on BTN.
Northwestern right-hander Amy Letourneau pitched well enough, as she surrendered just the three hits and wasn't charged with any earned runs due to the errors, though she did commit two herself. The sophomore also walked six batters while striking out seven.
After putting one runner on base in each of the first two innings, the Badgers broke through in the third. With two outs, senior left fielder Kendall Grimm reached on a throwing error by third baseman Marisa Bast. Senior catcher Whitney Massey followed with a single up the middle, advancing Grimm to third. Next, Blackshear walked to load the bases and Grimm ended up scoring on a passed ball with junior third baseman Michelle Mueller at the plate.
Bast managed a one-out double for Northwestern in the top of the fourth, but that was the only Northwestern production of the inning. Wisconsin added another run in the bottom frame, as junior shortstop Stephanie Peace walked, stole second and reached on a throwing error by Letourneau two batters later.
Sophomore center fielder Maria Van Abel led off the sixth inning by reaching base on Letourneau's second throwing error and making it to second base. After advancing to third on a single by Van Zeeland two batters later, Van Abel scored when Massei worked a bases-loaded walk.
Northwestern's best chance at scoring came in the fifth, when freshman second baseman knocked the first of her two singles down the right field line with one out. After being bunted over to second, the next two Wildcat batters walked and were hit by a pitch to load the bases. However, junior left fielder Mari Majam grounded out to Darrah to end the inning.
In the seventh, LeBeau led off with a single to left and reached second when senior center fielder Kristin Scharkey singled to third with two outs. Yet when Majam came to the plate as the tying run, Darrah struck her out on four pitches.