After shutting out Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Badgers went toe to toe with the top-seeded Northwestern Wildcats on Thursday in the quarterfinals but came up short, losing 5-2 after a late rally.
The Badgers found themselves in an early hole after giving up three runs in the first two innings. In the top of the third, Wisconsin loaded the bases after Ally Miklesh singled and then Kayla Konwent and Fiona Girardot were plunked in back-to-back at bats but couldn’t get a run in.
Maddie Schwartz settled in after her rough first two innings and kept the Cats off the board for the next three which allowed the Wisconsin bats to finally get going in the top of the fifth when Megan Donohue went opposite field for a pinch-hit solo home run, her first of the season, to get UW on the board.
UW tacked on another run in the top of the sixth thanks to a pinch-hit double by Jolie Fish that knocked in Peyton Bannon and got Wisconsin to within one. However, Northwestern proved why they are the best team in the conference and one of the best in the nation by plating two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth and then Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Danielle Williams mowed down the Badgers in the top of the seventh on three strikeouts.
Williams was impressive throughout, striking out 12 and only walking one while giving up four hits and two runs. Schwartz wasn’t as sharp as she had been against the Gophers, giving up 10 hits in six innings while striking out four and walking two. She gave up five earned runs, including one on a wild pitch.
Wisconsin (28-19 overall) will now wait to hear if they are in the NCAA Tournament as the 64-team field will be announced on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. All of the Bracketology I’ve seen has the Badgers in the tourney, but barely. The win over Minnesota could prove to be the difference between getting in and missing out on the postseason. However, the Badgers should be cheering for all of the favorites to continue to advance in the various conference tournaments around the nation so there are fewer “bid thieves” out there.