The Badgers are clearly enjoying being away from the frigid Madison weather. Wisconsin softball, playing in the Michele Smith Pediatric Cancer Foundation Invitational in Clearwater, Fla., wrapped up their second of three consecutive series in the Sunshine State with success this past weekend. The Badgers came away with a 2-1 record, including wins over St. Joseph’s and Hofstra. Their only loss of the tournament, and first of the year, came to No. 14 James Madison.
Wisconsin’s first opponent of the tournament, St. Joseph’s, came into the game win-less, but proved to be tough nonetheless. The Badgers struck first, scoring in the third inning after two defensive errors by the Hawks helped bring junior Brianna Flugaur in to score. Later that same inning, senior Chloe Miller drew a walk and then moved into scoring position after Kelsey Jenkins was caught stealing at third. With two outs, junior Brooke Wyderski, a transfer from Loyola University Chicago, stepped-up and smacked a clutch double that plated Miller and gave Wisconsin an early 2-0 lead.
However, St. Joseph’s answered right away in the top of the fourth with a few runs of their own, a solo home run and an RBI single that tied the game at two. In the bottom of the same inning, sophomore Stephanie Lombardo drove in freshman Heather Rudnicki on a fielder’s choice, giving the Badgers a one run advantage.
Thanks to great pitching in the second half of the game by junior Mariah Watts, a Florida native, Wisconsin held off St. Joe’s and won the game 3-2. This was the Badgers' seventh straight win to start the 2017 season, tying the program record.
Game two of the tournament provided the Badgers with their toughest opponent of the season with No. 14 James Madison. The Dukes, fresh off a 50-win season in which they hosted a Super Regional in the NCAA tournament, beat Wisconsin 4-0 behind stellar pitching from their ace. Junior Megan Good threw 5 2/3 innings of perfect softball before surrendering her only hit to Brianna Flugaur.
Freshman Kaitlyn Menz, who entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record, pitched well for the Badgers. Menz gave up three runs in the top of the first, but recovered and only allowed one run on three hits in her last five innings of work.
The loss brought the Badgers to a 1-1 overall record vs. ranked teams, after defeating No. 20 South Florida just two days earlier.
In the final game of the tournament for Wisconsin, head coach Yvette Healy once again called on her freshman ace Menz to take the mound against Hofstra. Menz pitched well, grabbing her fifth win of the season, but the star of this game was Brooke Wyderski. The junior from Illinois went 2-for-3 with two home runs and five RBI to help power Wisconsin to a 7-5 victory.h
The Badgers started early, plating four runs in the first inning thanks to an RBI single by Miller and a three run bomb by Wyderski. Wisconsin took a 7-1 lead into the sixth inning, which was more than enough cushion despite giving up four runs in the final two frames, bringing the final score to 7-5. The win takes the Badgers' record to a fabulous 8-1, with plenty of momentum heading into this weekend.
Wisconsin travels to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Sheraton Invitational. Their opening game of the tournament is against Florida International, with the first pitch scheduled for 8 a.m.