Wisconsin’s first step in the NCAA was a solid one, as a late home run by Taylor Johnson helped the Badgers defeat Notre Dame 4-2 in its first game of the NCAA Norman regional round.
Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlin Menz (19-8, 2.78 ERA) finished with a complete game, giving up two runs and 11 hits in seven innings of work. She worked herself in and out of danger through the first six innings as she held the Irish scoreless despite allowing eight hits. In those first six frames, she did not issue a base on balls which she used to avoid any damage.
Menz also got some help from Ally Miklesh in the third, who showed off her cannon in this outfield assist to cut off a runner at home.
Contrast that with Notre Dame pitcher, freshman Payton Tidd (25-9, 3.01 ERA), who allowed only one hit through the first six innings, but she also walked one and hit two batters.
Even though Tidd was stingy throughout the first six innings, the Badgers followed up a second-inning walk and a hit batter with a Caroline Hedgcock RBI to give the Badgers an early 1-0 lead.
The mostly quiet game shifted drastically in the seventh inning. After struggling through the first six innings, the Badgers’ offense stuck. After a pair of backwards Ks, Miklesh earned Wisconsin’s second hit of the game with a single.
After a throwing error, Johnson gave the Badgers some breathing room with a monster home run to left.
The bottom half of the seventh proved just how important Johnson’s home run was.
Menz found herself in trouble in the last frame, as Melissa Rochford singled to score two runs, cutting the deficit to two.
With the tying run at first and two out, M.K. Bonamy eventually popped out to second base to seal the victory—giving Menz and Wisconsin a huge sigh of relief.
The NCAA tournament for softball is unique because it is a four-team double elimination tournament. The win guarantees that Wisconsin will not need to play back-to-back games on Saturday. UW will play game 3 tomorrow at 3 p.m. CT. Barring some UMBC Golden Retriever magic, expect the Badgers to face the Sooners.
From NCAA.com, the Norman Regional schedule is (note that times are ET):
Norman Regional – May 17-19 at Norman, Oklahoma
Game 1: Notre Dame (36-16) vs. Wisconsin (40-12) | 7 p.m. Friday | ESPN
Game 2: No. 1 seed Oklahoma* (49-2) vs. UMBC (30-22) | 9:30 p.m. Friday | ESPN2
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner | 4 p.m. Saturday
Game 4 : Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser | 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Game 5 : Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner | 9 p.m. Saturday
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner | 2 p.m. Sunday
Game 7 (if necessary): Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser | 4:30 p.m. Sunday