Softball: Pauly makes Wisconsin pay for free passes

Colin Becht

With one out and a runner on first in the first inning Sunday, Wisconsin coach Chandelle Schulte put four fingers in the air-the sign to intentionally walk Michelle Batts. Two batters later, Schulte deeply regretted the decision.

After issuing the free pass to the junior designated player, pitcher Letty Olivarez fell behind in the count and walked sophomore infielder Adrienne Monka. With the bases loaded, senior infielder Nicole Pauly made the Badgers pay for their refusal to play with Batts and crushed a ball well over the centerfield fence for a grand slam.

“It’s awesome. They were pitching around her all game,” Pauly said. “I was pretty jazzy in that batter’s box to make something happen with my at-bat.”

Those four runs alone were enough for the Cats to defeat the Badgers, 11-3, on Sunday, avenging their 10-7 loss Saturday.

Wisconsin made the decision to nibble with two of NU’s biggest hitters, Monka and Batts, for the entire series. On the weekend, Batts went 0-for-3 while Monka finished 0-for-2. But their 10 walks and three hit-by-pitches set the table for NU rallies.

In Saturday’s contest, the two combined to go 0-for-2 at the plate with seven walks. The Badgers were especially cautious with Batts, who was issued four intentional walks Saturday.

“It was frustrating,” Batts said of her Barry Bonds treatment.

The Badgers faced Monka with equal caution. Olivarez pitched only to the corners of the strike zone and refused to give Monka anything to drive, leading to three walks and a hit-by-pitch.

This strategy paid off for Wisconsin as Pauly, who hit behind Batts and Monka, went 0-for-3 at the plate. Neither Monka nor Batts contributed an RBI or scored a run-though juniors Aly Euler and Kelly Quinn both scored in the fourth as pinch runners for Monka and Batts. Batts, last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week after knocking four home runs in three games, was kept in check.

In response to the free passes from Wisconsin, coach Kate Drohan moved Batts to the three spot in the batting order, followed by Monka and Pauly.

“We just wanted to change things up a little bit and put Monka behind her because of Monka’s RBI ability and also Nicole Pauly behind Monka,” Drohan said. “I’d take any of the three of them any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

This switch Sunday made the difference, as Pauly punished the Badgers for their cautiousness.

“It’s the best feeling ever. As soon as she hit that ball, I just ran straight home,” Batts said. “I’m a base runner. I know my teammates are going to come through like they did today and just hit me around.”

NU made Wisconsin pay again when Monka walked to lead off the sixth. Two batters later, Monka scored on a homer by senior catcher Emily Haug.

“We got the big hit (Sunday) and that’s where we fell short (Saturday),” Drohan said. “We left 15 people on base (Saturday) and we were able to generate a lot of offense but not get the final blow. Today we stepped up and we got it.”

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