Badgers split home-opener with rival Golden Gophers

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoSunday’s doubleheader proved frustrating for UW, as it split a pair of games against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Despite strong outings from pitchers Eden Brock and Leah Vanevenhoven, Wisconsin earned just one win due in large part to an inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In the day’s first game, the Badgers and Gophers battled into extra innings after playing to a 1-1 tie during the first seven innings. The Badgers found the basepaths early and often, collecting seven hits to go along with six walks, but were only able to muster a run in the fourth inning when they sandwiched four hits around a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to score Alexis Garcia on an RBI single from second baseman Theresa Boruta.Minnesota scored their lone run right away in the first inning when catcher Megan Higginbotham walked, then stole second. Third baseman Lisa Parks, who had been struggling this season with a .164 batting average, doubled to the gap in right-center field, driving Higginbotham in.In the eighth inning, Brock retired the first two batters she faced with relative ease. Parks then stepped to the plate and ripped a towering home run to straight-away centerfield. After collecting herself, Brock got Gopher second baseman Valerie Alston to ground out to Lynn Anderson at shortstop to end the inning.”I was a little disappointed in myself for leaving the pitch fat over the plate, but I had confidence that my teammates would be able to come back and get runs,” Brock recalled.Brock’s confidence was rightly placed.Garcia led off the bottom of the inning with a hit and was pinch-run for by Vanevenhoven. Vanevenhoven was quickly retired on Athena Vasquez’s fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, which brought up the top of the Badgers’ order.Sam Polito ripped a single to right, and Boruta followed with a walk to load the bases. Katie Hnatyk then lifted a fly ball to center field, where it was misplayed by Minnesota’s Stefanie Watt. This allowed Vasquez to score — knotting the game at two apiece — and the other runners to advance.That brought Joey Daniels to the plate, who was 1-3 on the day and had already been hit by a pitch. On a 1-1 count, Daniels was hit in the shoulder by a pitch from Rene Konderick, forcing home the game-winning run.”I was up there ready to hit,” Daniels said. “I knew I had to lay off the high ball, which I had been swinging at before and have a good at-bat.”Daniels and the Badgers, in earning the victory, avoided allowing a very strong pitching performance by Brock to be wasted. Brock struck out a career-high 12 batters and scattered six hits while only walking one. The win improved Brock’s team-best record to 11-7. Brock’s go-to pitch for strikeouts was her drop ball, and she emphasized the importance of changing speeds to keep batters guessing at the plate.The day’s second game was very similar to the first. The Badgers again spoiled many good scoring opportunities — 11 runners were stranded through the first four innings — and were kept in the game solely by a strong pitching performance.In the fifth inning, the Badgers appeared to have something developing, as leftfielder Valyncia Raphael led off the inning with a single. The budding rally was quickly snuffed out though, as Anderson, while attempting to advance Raphael to second, popped up her bunt attempt, which led to Raphael being doubled off first base.”Fundamentally, we have some issues. We have to get better at it,” UW head coach Chandelle Schulte said of the team’s bunting capabilities. “You can’t squeeze or do a lot of things if you can’t bunt, and that’s something we have to get better at.”The second game’s starting pitcher for UW, Vanevenhoven, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but Minnesota ended up scoring two unearned runs after a costly two-out fielding error by Boruta at second. Minnesota added two more runs in the sixth, when Alston ripped a double to the gap in left-center to score Parks and Higginbotham.”Early in the game, I was hitting my spots,” Vanevenhoven said. “Later in the game, I started to get too much of the plate, and they got some hits. My change-up was really working well for me throughout the game, though.”The Badgers were able to tally two runs in their half of the sixth, although the damage could have been much more. They sent eight batters to the plate, but keeping with the theme of the day, left the bases loaded.Offensively, the Badgers were led by their leadoff hitter. Polito reached base all five times, going three for three and working for two walks. She also scored one of the team’s two runs when pinch hitter Liz Klemp walked with the bases loaded.The loss dropped Vanevenhoven to 2-5 on the season and left Wisconsin with a 2-4 mark in Big Ten play.last_img

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