Ann Arbor, Mich.--What started as a pitcher's duel ended up as a route. A scoreless game heading into the fifth, the Badgers scored six runs in their final three at bats, to beat Ohio State, 6-1. In addition to their sudden offensive explosion, Wisconsin pitcher Eden Brock shut out the Buckeyes for the first six and two-thirds innings, allowing only four hits.
Throughout the game, both teams had plenty of scoring opportunities, even before Wisconsin broke through. With one out in the third inning the Badgers' Kris Zacher hit a sinking liner over the head of OSU third baseman Billie Jo Carder. Shortstop Jennifer Johnson was in position to collect the ball, but it hit the lip of the infield and bounced away from waiting fielder. With the speedy Zacher running, even if Johnson had corralled the ball, it would have been a close play at first.
With Katie Hnatyk up next, Zacher stole second and Buckeye catcher Natalie Hales' throw sailed into centerfield, but centerfielder Liz Caputo was there to prevent Zacher from advancing.
On the next pitch, Hnatyk turned on a Juarez offering and deposited it halfway up the Michigan Track and Field building in left, but the ball trailed foul just before the pole. Hnatyk eventually struckout and Zacher was stranded at second.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ohio State senior Karisa Evans laid down a nearly perfect bunt two feet in front of the plate and reached based. With Caputo up next, she missed a drag attempt and despite a slight bobble by Wisconsin catcher Boo Gillette and a textbook hook slide, Evans was thrown out attempting to steal second.
In the top of the fifth, Badger Ricci Robben smacked a ball that carried deep to left-center. Ohio State leftfielder Megan Schwab and the ball collided with the fence nearly simultaneously and the ball bounced back towards the infield, allowing Robben to coast into second.
The next Badger batter, Natalie Phillips attempted a bunt that hung in the air and bounced off the extended glove of a charging Carder, and went over her head and the runners ended up on the corners.
Up next for the Badgers, Kaitlin Reiss bunted right at Carder, who checked the runners and took the out at first.
With two runners in scoring position, Zacher hit a chopper to Johnson and Robben broke on the pitch. The shortstop's only play was at first, allowing Robben to score the game's first run.
In the top of the sixth, Hnatyk led off with a chopper through the left side, followed by a walk to Gillette. After a Joey Daniels strikeout, Anastasia Miller hit a high popper to rightfield. Evans misjudged the ball and couldn't make the shoestring catch, resulting in the bases being loaded.
Robben was walked in the next at bat, scoring Hnatyk and Phillips lifted a bloop into left to score Gillette for the Badgers third run of the game before Juarez got a doubleplay to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Evans hit a tailing liner into right-centerfield. The ball looked to be a certain base hit, but Phillips tracked it down and made the full-extension grab before sliding on the warning track to put an end to a potential Ohio State rally.
With Chelsea Baker now pitching for the Buckeyes, the Badgers again took to the sticks. Zacher led off the inning with a single, and after Samantha Polito was called out for being hit with her own bunted ball in fair territory, Hnatyk doubled to left to open up a three run seventh inning. Gillette followed with a double of her own to score Hnatyk, and after Daniels reached via single, Robben drove her in, to cap the scoring.
In the bottom of the seventh, after Caputo had been thrown out by the second baseman, Ashley Cutcliff hit a screamer right at shortstop Zacher, who played the hop with her backhand and threw out Cutcliff.
With two down, Christina Douglas hit an opposite-field low linedrive that fell inside the line and after Miller slightly misplayed the ball in the left, Douglas advanced to second.
Up next for the Buckeyes, Jaurez ripped a gapper to right-center to score Douglas for OSU's first and only run of the game.
Brock went the distance for the Badgers allowing only four hits and a single unearned run. She struck out three, walking only one.
The Ohio State pitchers combined to give up 13 hits and six runs in seven innings. Juarez struck out six while walking two.
Wisconsin will next face top-seeded Michigan at approximately 7:45 p.m. ET on Friday in the tournament's semifinals. Against Wisconsin in early April, the Maize and Blue were taken to the limit, winning a 3-2 eight-inning affair in their first meeting, before going on to win the second 8-0.
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