Comeback win over Albany sends UW softball to Championship Sunda - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Comeback win over Albany sends UW softball to Championship Sunday

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Tied 4-4 heading into the top of the seventh inning, the Wisconsin softball team needed a big hit to beat Albany and stay alive in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers got just that from freshman catcher Chloe Miller, whose two-run homer gave UW its first lead of the game and propelled Wisconsin to an 8-4 victory Saturday.

With the win, Wisconsin earned a rematch with No. 1 Oregon on Championship Sunday. The Badgers fell to the Ducks, 6-1, in an earlier contest Saturday and will have to beat Oregon twice to win the regional. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. (CT) Sunday.

“If you make it to Championship Sunday, it’s a big deal,” head coach Yvette Healy said postgame. “If you’re down to the last 32, it’s a compliment to your program and then you just go play hard and see what happens.”

Through the first two games of the NCAA tournament, the Badgers had mustered just two total runs on four hits. Then, after falling into a 4-0 hole after a third-inning, three-run homer from Albany’s Charlise Castro, things looked bleak.

“It’s tough when you get down,” Healy added. “I think the thought enters your head that this might be it. But it helped for Steph (Peace) to hit that home run right away to make it 4-1. I think that was a huge boost.”

Peace’s solo blast to lead off the fourth inning landed over the bleachers in left and ignited the Badgers dugout. Up next, Miller would then hit a rocket to the deepest part of the ball park, carrying over the 220-foot sign in straight-away centerfield. The back-to-back homers pulled UW within 4-2 in the fourth and gave the Badgers life.

“You never want to have to come from behind, but you have to have confidence in your team,” Peace said. “There was a lot of game to be played and you have to battle out of it.”

One inning later, Peace would stay hot, roping a double down the left field line to bring in Megan Tancill and Michelle Mueller to even the score at 4-4 in the fifth.

The Badgers looked poised to grab the lead in the sixth, when Mueller knocked a single to left with runners on. However, a perfect throw from LF Vicky McFarland gunned down Mary Massei at the plate as she tried to score from second base, keeping the score knotted up.

Taylor-Paige Stewart, who came on in relief of starting pitcher Cassandra Darrah in the fourth inning, posted four scoreless frames down the stretch with six strikeouts to keep the Albany hitters at bay and set the stage for freshman Miller’s seventh-inning heroics.

Peace, who finished 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored, would walk to lead off the seventh. On the first pitch of the next at bat, Miller jumped on a fastball and deposited it over the center field wall to push the Badgers ahead 6-4. Miller’s second homer of the game and team-high 12th of the season was just the start, as UW would push across two more insurance runs on a two-out single from Massei.

“Any time you can cross the plate is an important run,” Miller said. “Now that we’ve seen that we can do it, putting up four runs in the seventh against a really good team, gives us confidence going into tomorrow.”

In Friday’s contest with Albany, the Badgers tallied one run on two hits against Great Dane starting pitcher Brittany MacFawn. In Saturday’s rematch, UW got to her with eight runs on 15 hits, including four from Massei.

“Oregon’s tough, but (Stewart) had a great performance against them this morning and then to come back and get her first NCAA tournament win for us tonight was really nice,” Healy said.

“Our team is super excited about playing Oregon,” Stewart added. “We played them tough last year and this morning and I think we have a great mindset against them.”

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