MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin scored two runs in the first inning and that would be all the support that freshman Cassandra Darrah would need as the Badgers (24-19, 4-8) topped Illinois, 2-1, on Sunday afternoon at Goodman Diamond.
Darrah threw her 15th complete game of the year and improved to 13-7 on the year - the second-most wins by a freshman in school history - by limiting the powerful Illini lineup to just one run in seven innings of work. The Corydon, Iowa, native struck out five and walked one while surrendering only four hits.
Entering the weekend, Illinois (20-18, 7-5) was leading the Big Ten in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, total bases and on-base percentage during conference games. But Darrah held the Illini to their lowest run and hit totals since they had one hit in a 1-0 loss to Long Beach State on March 20.
After Illinois stranded two runners in the top of the first, Wisconsin got all the offense it needed in the bottom of the inning.
Mary Massei started things with a single up the middle. Jennifer Krueger then reached on a fielding error by Illinois pitcher Pepper Gay and, one batter later, Stephanie Peace drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Shannel Blackshear then hit a deep fly to right field to bring home Massei and advance Krueger to third. Blackshear's second sacrifice fly of the season gave UW a 1-0 lead.
Krueger's tag-up to third proved to be crucial. With runners on the corners and two outs, Peace took off for second base. Illinois threw down but the throw was cut off by second baseman Danielle Zymkowitz because Krueger broke for home. Zymkowitz was unable to get a good grip on the ball, however, and Krueger scored the eventual game-winning run.
Massei, who was batting leadoff for the first time since the team's opening game against Texas State, went 2-3. After missing 14 games due to injury, Massei has now gone 6-12 with two runs, two RBIs, a double, a triple and a home run since her return. She's batting .522 in her last seven games dating back to March 19 and has four multi-hit games in that span.
Given a 2-0 lead, Darrah got into a groove. After getting Kelley Wedel to line out to shortstop to end the first, Darrah retired the next 10 batters she faced. Illinois went 1-2-3 in the second, third and fourth innings, but finally broke through in the fifth inning.
With one out in the fifth, Jackie Guy singled to center field. Alex Booker pinch ran for Guy and took second as Ashley Conrad walked. Danielle Vaji then singled to left field to load the bases for the top of the order. Zymkowitz hit a grounder to shortstop, but it was hit too softly to allow Peace to throw home. Peace then tried to get Zymkowitz at first but the throw was not in time, and Illinois had closed the score to 2-1.
Peace got another chance on the next batter, though, as Hollie Pinchback grounded a ball to short. Peace came home and got the second out on a force play. Peace then closed out the inning by catching a line drive from Meredith Hackett, leaving the bases full.
Darrah finished off the game from there, getting the Illini to go three-up and three-down in both the sixth and seventh innings. Darrah finished the game by getting both Conrad and Vaji to strike out looking.
Wisconsin leaves the confines of Goodman Diamond to take on Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday. The doubleheader starts at 3 p.m.