The Badgers’ stellar start to the 2017 campaign continued this past weekend in Fort Myers, Fla., at the Sheraton Invitational. Wisconsin won four of five games to bring its overall record this season to 12-2.
Wisconsin leaned on great pitching all weekend. The pitching staff, led by starters Kirsten Stevens and Kaitlyn Menz, allowed only five runs across all five games, including shutout victories over Florida International, Florida Gulf Coast and Hofstra.
Two-time First Team All-Big Ten second baseman Kelsey Jenkins led the way from the offensive side of things, reaching base a team-high 10 times during the tournament.
Wisconsin opened up the tournament Friday morning against Florida International and controlled the contest from beginning to end. Stevens, a senior, went the distance for the Badgers and held the Panthers to zero runs on five hits, grabbing her third win and first shut out of the season. Freshman Kayla Konwent recorded her first career hit with a two-RBI single up the middle in the fifth inning, giving the Badgers a 5-0 lead that would be the game’s final score.
Later that same day, Wisconsin took on a tough Boston College team and couldn’t quite find their rhythm, losing the game 4-1. The Badgers defense was uncharacteristically sloppy, committing a season-high four errors against BC. The loss was Menz’s second of the season, but by no means a poor performance. The freshman did not allow an extra-base hit for the third straight game and struck out six batters, her second highest number of K’s in a game this season.
Wisconsin’s only run came in the fifth inning on a single by third baseman Sara Novak, who recorded two hits in the loss.
The Badgers bounced back on day two. Wisconsin beat Florida Gulf Coast 6-0 before shutting down Hofstra 4-0 just a few hours later, the second time this season Wisconsin shutout consecutive opponents. Menz took the mound for the first game against Florida Gulf Coast, the host of the tournament. She and the rest of the team were in top form against the Eagles from start to finish. Catcher Chloe Miller got things started in the first with a solo home run, her first of three on-base appearances in the game.
Wisconsin’s offensive game was elite in all facets against the Eagles, tallying nine hits, five stolen bases and two home runs.
The Badgers' second game of the day looked a lot like their first. Stevens allowed only four hits in a complete game effort and Kayla Konwent hit her first career home run as Wisconsin blanked Hofstra 4-0. This was the team’s second victory against Hofstra this season, after beating them 7-5 Feb. 19.
Wisconsin’s final game of the tournament was a significant one, as they took on fellow Big Ten member Rutgers. Ace Kaitlyn Menz pitched six 2/3 innings of shutout softball, while Kelsey Jenkins and Kelly Welsh had three hits a piece as the Badgers knocked off the Scarlet Knights to finish the tournament with a 4-1 record.
Wisconsin starts up again next weekend in Texas in the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic.