Wisconsin Softball began its 2023 season on a rough note last weekend in Mexico, losing all four games while struggling mightily at the plate and in the field.
With only non-conference games until March 5, the Badgers have plenty of time to settle in and compete in 2023. Still, the weekend slate in Puerto Vallarta offered some valuable insight into this year’s Wisconsin roster. Here’s how it went down on Mexico’s west coast.
The Badgers opened the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge against California Baptist, pitching No. 2 starter Tessa Magnanimo against the Lancers’ freshman Presley Hosick. Magnanimo pitched well in a 2-0 loss, allowing one earned run on four hits in 5.2 innings. She struck out three and didn’t issue any walks, although she did hit a couple batters in a 39-pitch effort.
Hosick, however, was the opening game’s star. She pitched a no-hitter in her first career start and, stunningly, did so in 48 pitches. The freshman tallied five strikeouts while also recording 10 groundouts, allowing enough contact to keep her pitch count that low.
Wisconsin’s best chance at runs came in the second, when Ava Kuszak walked and Abby Herbst was hit by a pitch to begin the inning. A fielder’s choice, a strikeout and a groundout ended the threat.
California Baptist scored both runs in the fifth inning with an RBI single followed by a Katie Keller error. The Badger first baseman committed two errors in the game, marking a rough start to an otherwise strong weekend for the former Northern Illinois standout.
Later Thursday, the Badgers suffered another loss, this time 1-0 to BYU. Wisconsin starter Maddie Schwartz allowed a run on three first-inning singles and a walk before settling into an excellent, complete-game start and keeping Wisconsin in the game — over the next six frames, Schwartz allowed no hits and two walks.
Wisconsin scattered three hits, including a first-inning leadoff double by Keller, and also stole three bases. It took her 110 pitches, but BYU’s Kaysen Korth struck out nine, didn’t walk anybody and dealt the Badgers their second shutout loss of the day.
Schwartz, who had thrown 84 pitches versus BYU, also started Friday afternoon against 24th-ranked Oregon. A disastrous second inning with three hits, three errors and three unearned runs ended her outing after six outs, though.
The Badgers finally tallied a run in the third with back-to-back doubles by Kayla Konwent and Peyton Bannon. Oregon reliever Elise Sokolsky struck out Kuszak to end the inning and limit the damage.
Wisconsin got a couple runners on in the top of the seventh but couldn’t drive them in and lost 4-2. Receiving contributions from the offense, only to commit four errors and yield four unearned runs, was a tough pill to swallow as the Badgers lost their third straight to begin 2023.
With another tough matchup in 23rd-ranked Ole Miss to finish the tournament, Schwartz returned to the circle Saturday. She turned in one of the worst starts of her Badger career, allowing six earned runs on five hits and a walk in 1.1 innings.
The Badgers pieced together a couple runs in the sixth. With just three total hits, however, they were unable to overcome the early deficit and lost 6-2.
A silver lining of Schwartz’s early exits versus Oregon and Ole Miss was the debut of freshman pitcher Paytn Monticelli. Between two relief appearances, she totaled 7.2 scoreless innings and eight strikeouts while allowing just five hits and a trio of walks. The impressive work earned Monticelli a spot on the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge All-Tournament Team.
Schwartz has an extended track record of success and should bounce back to have a strong final season. If she continues to struggle, however, Monticelli could pitch a lot of crucial innings for the 2023 Badgers. Further, her high-strikeout potential offers a nice contrast to Schwartz and should make her a valuable weapon in relief situations. That, combined with Magnanimo’s encouraging start, suggests a lot of promise for Wisconsin’s pitching staff.
Keller joined Monticelli on the All-Tournament Team. Batting leadoff and playing first base all weekend in her Wisconsin debut, Keller went 4-for-12 with a double and a walk. Keller’s sustained production atop Wisconsin’s lineup would give the power-hitting Konwent more RBI opportunities and offer a huge boost to the Badger offense.
Konwent, center fielder Molly Schlosser and third baseman Skylar Sirdashney each tallied a double in two-hit weekends. Apart from them, Wisconsin’s lineup did little of note.
Kuszak and Sirdashney both made nice diving catches versus Ole Miss. Sirdashney also ended a California Baptist scoring threat by diving to catch a bunt attempt and throwing behind the runner at first.
Overall, though, Wisconsin’s defensive struggles were glaring. With nine errors in the tournament, the Badgers made things tough on their pitching staff and struggling lineup. Finding consistency at the plate may take time, but playing cleaner defense should be an immediate, early-season adjustment.
Wisconsin will head to Atlanta this weekend looking for its first win. From Friday through Sunday the Badgers will play four games — two versus Georgia Tech (2-2) and two versus Louisville (4-1).
Next week The Daily Cardinal will have a recap of the weekend in Atlanta, so stay tuned to the website and @cardinal_sports on Twitter.