After losing to No. 23 DePaul 6-0 Friday night, the unranked Wisconsin women's softball team fell 8-2 to No. 6 Oregon State Saturday afternoon, ending its run in the double-elimination NCAA regional tournament. The Badgers finish the season 31-24 overall.
"Today, I just think that we kind of ran out of gas, emotionally, mentally, physically," Wisconsin head coach Karen Gallagher said. "We've played some extraordinary ball the last month and I just felt like the kids didn't step up their game today."
Oregon State, which lost to unranked University of Wisconsin-Green Bay 1-0 Friday night, defeated the Phoenix 5-0 immediately following the Beaver-Badger game. With Wisconsin and UWGB eliminated from the tournament, reigning Pac-10 champions Oregon State (42-15) and DePaul will meet Sunday beginning at 11 a.m.
A sloppy first inning by Wisconsin's defense proved to be costly, as the Badgers gave up three runs. Beaver sophomore shortstop Mia Longfellow hit a triple and came home on a throwing error made by Badger sophomore second baseman Athena Vasquez. Oregon State scored twice more in that inning. Wisconsin overthrew a ball hit by freshman left fielder Cambria Miranda that allowed Beaver junior designated player Vanessa Iapala to score. Centerfielder Natalie Johnson scored junior right fielder Adrienne Alo on a RBI double.
"Especially with a young team, I knew we were going to make some mistakes," Gallagher said.
Oregon State added solo home runs in the second and third innings before Wisconsin pulled starting pitcher Eden Brock in favor of senior Katie Layne. Layne, though, gave up a home run on her first batter. The result? A new school record for the Beavers for the number of home runs in a postseason game with three.
Wisconsin fought back in the second inning, as senior catcher Boo Gillette singled and freshman designated player Ricci Robben knocked one out of the park, bringing them both home for Wisconsin's only runs, making the score 4-2.
"I thought that was a just real big boost for us. It put some wind back in our sails," Gallagher said. "Here is a kid that's a freshman who has really stepped up in the postseason for us and hitting very good pitching for us."
Wisconsin needed more offense than just one homer, and Beaver pitcher Brianne McGowan—the Pac-10 pitcher of the year— made sure that was all she gave up. The sophomore set a new school record for strikeouts in a seven-inning game with 16. She gave up six hits, two earned runs and walked two.
"She's their No. 1," Gillette said of the Beavers' pitcher. "She's got great endurance and I feel as the game went on, she picked up speed."
Brock, meanwhile, gave up six hits and five runs in 12 at bats, while Layne allowed five hits and three runs, and walked three batters, in five innings of work. Neither Badger pitcher struck out a Beaver batter.
Oregon State, which finished with 11 hits, scored just twice more after its back-to-back home runs in the third inning. The Beavers scored again in the third, bringing the score to 7-2, and added their eighth run in the fifth inning.
Six Wisconsin seniors ended their careers as Badgers on somewhat of a high note, despite the loss. Wisconsin, as of April 16, was 13-19 but rode a 18-of-20-game win streak prior to its losses to No. 1 Michigan at the Big Ten Tournament and its NCAA tournament losses. Gillette and Gallagher both said this senior class has made its mark and instilled the desire to strive for postseason play in its younger, talented, players.
"I think a lot of the younger players stepped up this year," Gillette said. "I think just getting to play a year, get comfortable with the Big Ten, I just think they're going to learn to be leaders as young sophomores and just keep hitting the ball. They play with confidence, they're on their way."
"I think the trend has been set, I think the attitude has been learned and the work ethic and everything that goes along with learning to get to this point is pretty much instilled in these young players," Gallagher said.
Zacher nearly breaks two records
Senior shortstop Kris Zacher was batting.404 heading into this weekend—a school record. After going 1-for-3 Friday and 1-4 Saturday, though, her average slipped to .399 for the season, just below the single-season record set by Julie Borchard (1996-99), of .401 . Zacher, who finished her career with 201 hits, fell just shy of the school record of 203 hits, also set by Borchard.
Zacher and Gillette finish the year with 10 home runs apiece, which gives them a tie for the school record.