Wisconsin clips Rutgers in Big Ten home opener

Kaitlyn Menz has been a standout all season for UW.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Weather was the main factor for the weekend series between the Wisconsin Badgers softball team (1-0 Big Ten, 14-11 overall) and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (0-1, 15-15) as temperatures hovered below 29 degrees on Friday, Saturday delaying the series first game until Sunday, when the weather took a fortuitous turn and peaked above the coveted 29-degree mark.

Although the temperature peaked to around 38 degrees on Sunday the game was initially delayed for around two hours. With the game being delayed for that long that normally affects the warm-up and the psyche for the starting pitcher. Sophomore pitcher Kaitlyn Menz however did not seem to be affected by the weather delay at all.

“I think it [the delay] did affect me a little bit but, I was ready and warmed up by 11:45 when we were initially supposed to start,” Menz said. “Then 12 o’clock hit, an I was like, “oh I better go get warmed up again” and the second time I did, I went right out there and was ready to go.”

And when she meant that she was ready to go that was not a lie as she cruised through the first three innings only allowing one walk and one hit.

With Menz’s dominance through the first three innings the Badger bats were hot in the first two innings as they manufactured three runs on a suicide squeeze, fielder's choice and also a single hit to the outfield.

“We watched film on them a lot from last year and they struggled hitting my changeup and I think mixing that in this year also helped a lot with dealing with the top four of their lineup who were the best hitters they have,” Menz said.

“I think we are just pretty balanced this year, we have a lot of ways to score,” head coach Yvette Healy said. “I think on a day like today it just helps get the offense going with it being so cold out, you just want to see how you can take the pressure off the pitcher and the hitters, and that was our goal going into the game any way we could manufacture runs we were going to do it.”

Menz hit a rough spot in the fourth allowing the Scarlet Knights to manufacture three runs to get back into the game.

“I think I just went into cruise control and was like, “oh it’s just the bottom of the lineup and it’s going to be easy,’” Menz said. “My mentality changed a little bit and I needed to focus on that moving forward.”

“We sent the pitching coach out there and the message we delivered to her was just to refocus and to make adjustments and to throw her pitches,” Healy said. “ I thought after that visit she started attacking the zone the better and she had to work through it, which she did.”

Senior shortstop Brooke Wyderski continued her rampant tear by going a perfect three for three from the plate along with contributing the fifth run for the Badgers. That fifth run proved to be the nail through the coffin, as the Badgers would tack on one more run to solidify a 6-3 win over Rutgers.

“We have been talking as a team to chip away anywhere in the lineup and the bottom of our lineup turns it over really well and that makes our job in the top half of the lineup easier,” Wyderski said. “Also the coaches have just instilled that we need to compete on every pitch when we are at the plate.”

Although the weather felt like November or December weather conditions over 325 people came and braved the conditions to come out and cheer, an that was noticed by the team.

"The fans were huge. I think the team was really humbled by how many kids and fans were in the stands. Of course, it was cold outside but the fans didn't look cold. To see that many fans jumping up and down and cheering it helps the players realize that some people were just coming out for fun today,” Healy said. “We're going out here to do a job but a lot of kids chose to do this on their day off. We've got a great fan base. I think the attendance at Goodman has been phenomenal, people love coming out and seeing the team. If you can bring fans out on a day like today then the rest of the season will just be a bonus.”

Wisconsin will welcome the Northern Iowa Panthers into Goodman Diamond Tuesday afternoon with the first pitch slated to be thrown at 2 p.m.

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