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Melanie Cross photo

Melanie Cross went 3-for-3 — a single, a double and a triple — with three RBIs in Thursday's victory.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Senior Melanie Cross made quite a return to the University of Wisconsin softball team on Thursday.

After missing 19 games due to injury, the outfielder went 3-for-3 and drove in three runs to lead a 7-4 victory over Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Fifth-seeded UW (39-11) was outhit 10-9 by 12th-seeded Iowa (19-32) but capitalized on three-run rallies in the first and third innings.

“We talk all the time about outhitting other teams and we did that today,” Iowa coach Renee Gillispie said. “Wisconsin is a tough team, though, and they were taking advantage of the freebies we were giving them.”

Cross’ two-run double to left field in the bottom of the first gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead before a one-hour rain delay.

With the score tied at 3 in the third, junior Caroline Hedgcock’s two-run single and sophomore Kayla Konwent’s RBI single provided the Badgers with a 6-3 advantage. Freshman Lauren Foster hit a leadoff double in the fourth and scored on Cross’ single to left for the Badgers’ final run.

Freshman Maddie Schwartz got the win in relief, allowing one run on four hits with one strikeout in four innings. Sophomore starter Haley Hestekin surrendered three runs on six hits.

The victory gave UW a four-game sweep of the season series with Iowa.

UW advanced to today’s quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Ohio State (34-15). The two teams did not meet during the regular season.

Iowa 102 010 0 — 4 10 0

Wisconsin 303 100 x — 7 9 0

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Lehman (L; 3.2-7-7-0-5), Doocy (2.1-2-0-0-3); Hestekin (3-6-3-0-3), Schwartz (W; 4-4-1-0-1).

Leading hitters — Hamilton (2x2), Cecil (2x4), Lien (2x4); Cross (3x3), Konwent (2x3). 3B: Cross. 2B — Bogar, Schulte; Foster, Cross, Miklesh.

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