Wisconsin averaged just above a double per game entering Friday night's contest, but the Badgers hit six against Maryland softball pitcher Hannah Dewey to power their way to an 8-3 victory. The result eliminated the Terps from Big Ten tournament contention.
Coach Julie Wright said Dewey and pitcher Madison Martin left too many balls up in the zone, which led to the Badgers' offensive onslaught. It's a mechanical mistake, she said, that can be corrected if pitchers get over the ball on their release point.
Wisconsin catcher Chloe Miller, the Big Ten leader in batting average, doubled in the first inning and later scored on an infield hit. Then, back-to-back doubles in the third from infielder Sara Novak and infielder Stephanie Lombardo added another run to give the Badgers (30-14, 9-11 Big Ten) a 2-0 lead.
Though infielder Anna Kufta recorded two RBIs against Rutgers on Wednesday, coach Julie Wright wanted her to work on her balance at the plate. After making an adjustment, Kufta had all three of Maryland's RBIs Friday.
In the third, outfielder Amanda Brashear sent a swinging bunt down the third base line and beat it out for a single. Then, Kufta hit a home run off the left field foul pole, and ran into the mob of Terps (11-37-1, 4-17) surrounding home plate, tying the game at two.
Maryland's No. 1 through No. 3 hitters registered four hits while the rest of the lineup was held hitless. Wisconsin pitcher Kaitlyn Menz allowed two runs and three hits, but her solid outing was in part to a lack of discipline from the Terps, who chased balls throughout her outing.
"Some of the kids in the bottom half hit the ball hard, just hit it right at people," Wright said. "There were a few swings that we were swinging at pitches that were not in our strike zone."
After Kufta's two-run homer, Wisconsin took a 4-2 lead the next inning. Designated Badgers player Melanie Cross sent a double to center and scored after an RBI single from outfielder Jordan Little. Little scored later in the frame after a single from infielder Brooke Wyderski.
Dewey got knocked out of the game in the fifth after the Badgers plated three more runs to lead, 7-2. Lombardo doubled to lead off the inning, and Wisconsin loaded the bases after a throwing error and walk. An RBI groundout scored Lombardo before infielder Kelsey Jenkins cleared the bases with a double.
Kufta added one run with an RBI single in the fifth to make it a 7-3 game. But with bases loaded and two outs, catcher Kristina Dillard popped up behind second to end the frame.
In the seventh, Little hit her fourth homer of the year off Martin to push the Badgers' advantage to 8-3.
Maryland needed to sweep the series against Wisconsin, plus receive help from elsewhere in the conference, to make the Big Ten tournament. Instead, the Terps fell by five runs, marking the second straight season they've missed out on the competition.
"I hate it for our seniors," Wright said. "They've been through a lot, and I wish that that was something we could've gotten done for them."