After losing all three games at Illinois the previous weekend, the Wisconsin softball team returned home to do some damage against the Spartans. With their bats heating up, the Badgers took the series 3-2, 8-4 and 8-0.
Game 1 on Friday was a pitchers’ duel decided by one run. Maddie Schwartz started in the circle and was dominant the entire game. Allowing just two runs off three hits while recording 10 strikeouts, she turned in a 99-pitch, complete-game outing. Schwartz’s opponent, Michigan State’s Ashley Miller, impressed as well, yielding two runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts.
The Badgers’ offense came alive as they turned the order over in the third inning. Nine-hitter Lauren Foster led off with her first home run of the season, a shot to center field. Kayla Konwent followed with a double, then Fiona Girardot added an RBI single into right field to put Wisconsin up 2-0. Following a Christaana Angelopulos walk, Skylar Sirdashney reached on a fielder’s choice while Girardot came home on an MSU throwing error.
Both offenses were quiet and the score remained 3-0 until Michigan State struck in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Jessica Mabrey walked before Courtney Callahan homered to right field.
The Spartans failed to add another run, however, and Wisconsin won 3-2. Schwartz added another win—her 16th of the season—to an already impressive 2022 statline.
Less than 24 hours later, the teams were back at Goodman Softball Complex for Game 2. Miller returned to the circle after her complete game effort and yielded four runs (one earned) on five hits and a pair of walks. She exited after recording just six outs on 49 pitches.
Wisconsin started Tessa Magnanimo, who allowed four hits and one earned run over three innings while tallying five strikeouts. It was only her second start in 15 total appearances, but she was effective as usual and now has a 2.24 ERA in 2022.
The Badgers scored four runs in the first two innings with help from the top half of the order. The first inning started with a Konwent single, a Girardot double and an Ally Miklesh RBI single. Wisconsin settled for just one run, though, as Girardot was thrown out at home for the second out.
In the second inning, Konwent and Girardot both drew walks (Konwent’s being intentional) with two outs. A Miklesh single drove in three runs, all of which were unearned thanks to an error by Spartan center fielder Jessica Mabrey. No matter, Wisconsin led 4-0 after two innings and Miklesh was two for two with three RBI through two plate appearances.
Michigan St. put one run on the board due to two third-inning fielding errors by Wisconsin’s infield and a single by second baseman Caitie Ladd. Macy Lee doubled home another run in the fourth, narrowing the Badger lead to 4-2.
That was all for Magnanimo, who handed the game to Schwartz with nobody out. The Badger ace, no stranger to heavy workloads, was tasked with recording 12 outs a day after throwing 99 pitches.
Wisconsin quickly bounced back with two runs of their own as Sirdashney smacked a double and Konwent showed her signature power, crushing the ball over the right field fence for a 6-2 lead and her eighth bomb of the season.
In the top of the sixth inning, Mabrey managed a two-run double to bring the Spartans within two runs. The top of Wisconsin’s order squashed any hopes of a comeback in the bottom half of the inning, though. Once again, Konwent and Girardot got on base before Miklesh drove them in with a single, tallying the fourth and fifth RBI of her 3-for-3 afternoon.
The 8-4 score held and Wisconsin had secured a series victory. Schwartz needed just 52 pitches to get through the final four innings and seize her 17th win, striking out three while allowing two runs (one earned).
The Badgers looked to sweep Michigan State on Easter Sunday and did so with another outstanding performance by Schwartz as well as an unstoppable offense.
Konwent went two for two with a pair of walks. Girardot was one for two with a triple and a walk. Foster, hitting cleanup in the series finale, went two for four with a double. Second baseman Ellie Hubbard was one for three with a triple. In total, Wisconsin recorded eight hits while playing a clean game defensively.
Michigan State did manage six hits off Schwartz but couldn’t string enough offense together to score any runs. Schwartz pounded the strike zone, walking nobody in the 79-pitch, seven-strikeout game. The three-win weekend improved her record to 18-5 and lowered her ERA to 2.45 through 125.2 innings. Schwartz’s 93:28 K:BB is a testament to her dominant stuff and impressive control.
This game did have an unexpected ending in the sixth inning, thanks to the mercy rule. The last play of the game was a wild one as well.
Wisconsin had the bases loaded with two outs as outfielder Molly Schlosser stepped into the batter's box. Schlosser reached first safely due to an error by MSU’s pitcher while both Konwent and Miklesh scored. Miklesh’s run was Wisconsin’s eighth, and in NCAA softball, if one team leads by eight or more runs after five innings, the game ends.
With the weekend sweep, the Badgers improved to 23-11 overall and 8-4 in their conference. They’re now in fourth place in the Big Ten standings and will host a tough Nebraska team, undefeated in conference play and riding an 18-game winning streak overall, in a must-see series this weekend.