Bittersweet Senior Day for Badgers

first_imgKelsey Fenton / The Badger HeraldIt was a somber scene Sunday afternoon as the senior members of the Wisconsin softball team began to realize the inevitable end of their Badger careers, removing their name tags from the dugout lockers after the regular season finale at Goodman Diamond.Michigan State (24-24, 9-10 Big Ten) played the role of spoiler to a T, taking two of three games from No. 25 Wisconsin (39-11, 16-7) over the weekend, capping the series off with an 11-5 win over the Badgers in the second of two games Sunday.In her last home game for Wisconsin in front of a record-setting crowd, senior catcher/infielder Whitney Massey admited Sunday was emotional for her and the six other seniors.“There’s a lot of emotion,” Massey said. “I think for the seven of us, it’s kind of been a roller coaster for us these last four years, but it’s nice to know that we’re not done.”After being shut out in a 3-0 loss to Wisconsin in the first game of the doubleheader, the Michigan State bats came to life against senior lefthander Meghan McIntosh, scoring six runs in the first inning and chasing McIntosh off the mound after only one-third of an inning pitched.Taylor Paige-Stewart came in for relief of McIntosh in the first and went the rest of the way for UW, giving up five runs on five hits.“Tay did good,” UW pitching coach Tracie Adix said of Paige-Stewart’s relief appearance. “She came in, popped them up and kept them off balance. That’s really all we can ask from her, try to keep them contained so we can get some more runs.”Sunday marked Paige-Stewart’s only 11th appearance of the season in the circle. She now has a 2.28 ERA in 46 innings pitched.The Wisconsin offense did its best to pull off another comeback as it has been able to do all season, but the six first-inning runs by the Spartans proved to be too much for the Badgers to overcome. UW brought in just five runs in the 11-5 defeat.The silver lining came in the bottom of the fifth when Massey set the single-season record for home runs after the California native launched her 12th home run of the season to right field to score two and bring the deficit down to five.“She’s stepped it up,” Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy said of Massey. “She’s catching for us and putting together some great games and she’s just tough. She’s fun and she’s going to be sorely missed.”The Badgers snagged their only win of the series against Michigan State in the early game of the twin bill on the back of an outstanding pitching performance from junior righthander Cassandra Darrah, who pitched seven scoreless innings for Wisconsin.The Michigan State hitters were making solid contact on Darrah’s pitches, but were only able to generate six hits off the Wisconsin defense, shutting out the Spartans en route to Darrah’s 23rd win.“Cass was ready to go and started mowing them down,” Adix said. “She was getting weak ground balls, pop-ups. She wasn’t trying to blow the ball by people. Cass just stuck to the game plan, kept them off balance and fielded her position well.”At the plate, it was junior rightfielder Mary Massei who started the game off with a bang on a lead-off no-doubter to left-center to give the Badgers the early 1-0 lead.Massei put a charge into another ball in the fifth inning off Michigan State’s ace Kelly Smith, notching her second home run of the day.“I was just seeing the ball well,” Massei said. “I knew that [Smith] went inside for strikes, so I backed off a little bit and just took hacks.”Wisconsin went on to win 3-0, giving Healy her 100th win with the program and UW its 39th win of the season.The series kicked off Saturday after Friday’s game was postponed due to poor weather. McIntosh got the nod for the Badgers but was unable to make it out of the second inning after giving up six runs, four earned, through 1 2/3 innings.Friday marked the second poor start for McIntosh who, until this weekend, had been having a career year sporting a microscopic 1.57 ERA coming into the series.“I think a lot of it sometimes has to do with the Senior Day,” Adix said of McIntosh’s struggles from the circle. “Some seniors will play well on Senior Day and some will feel just a little bit of nervousness. They think more about how it is the last time they are going to play on this field.”While coming away with just one win in the three-game series with the Spartans was not what the Badgers had in mind, Healy believes it will be a wake-up call for her team and help to prepare them for the Big Ten tournament, which is set to start next weekend.“I think it makes everybody a little aggravated and focused,” Healy said. “It’s better to have a weekend like this [happen] this weekend. Moving forward, there’s no room for error really; you have to play well or go home for the rest of the way out, so I think better now than later, and hopefully it keeps people hungry.”last_img

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