This weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers (10-6) will head south to Austin, Texas for the Bevo Classic, where they will face off against No. 10 Texas, No. 9 Alabama and Texas State.
The Badgers will enter Austin hot, coming off of an eight game win streak that has them undefeated since Feb. 19 against Louisville.
They most recently picked up an early conference win against Big Ten rival Indiana, beating them 12-1 in Bloomington. The game against the Hoosiers marked Wisconsin’s widest margin of victory all season, adding some extra momentum to their win streak
Wisconsin will play their first game of the invitational against Texas State (16-5), where 2022 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Ciara Trahan leads the Bobcats in hits with 27 on the season and a .386 batting average. Jessica Mullins is expected to start in the circle for Texas State, where she holds a formidable 1.22 ERA over 63 innings pitched. The Bobcats are projected to finish the season second in the Sun Belt, according to a preseason coaches poll.
During their Friday faceoff against Texas (18-2-1), the player to watch for the Longhorns will be freshman shortstop Viviana Martinez from Tolleson, Arizona, who leads the team in hits and is currently batting an impressive .524 on the season. Martinez has recorded a hit in all but two of her 21 starts this season.
Wisconsin, however, has committed zero errors in their last three games, and the infield will likely be wary of Martinez as a threat at the plate.
The Longhorns entered 2023 with unfinished business after making it to the Women’s College World Series final as an unseeded dark horse, nearly winning the National Championship. Texas’ path to Oklahoma City went through No. 13 Washington and No. 4 Arkansas before defeating No. 7 Oklahoma State to advance to the finals.
Earlier that season, Texas was the first team to beat softball powerhouse Oklahoma, snapping their 40-game win streak spanning more than 300 days. The three game series for the Championship ended poorly for the Longhorns, though, as Oklahoma avenged their prior loss with 16-1 and 10-5 wins to become back-to-back champions. Last year’s loss is likely fresh in their minds as they chase another bid to Oklahoma City this season and another shot at becoming national champions.
In their Sunday matchup against Alabama (19-3), all eyes will be on the Wisconsin offense as they attempt to score against fifth-year senior Montana Fouts, a powerhouse in the circle for the Alabama defense and the most recent SEC Pitcher of the Week. Fouts is coming off a week where she threw 19 shutout innings and pitched her third perfect game — and the program’s eighth.
For the Crimson Tide, Kenleigh Cahalan leads the team in batting average, hitting .400 on the season. Ashley Prange is another face to look out for at the plate, leading the team with eight home runs. Cahalan and Prange are eager to hit, though, having eight and six strikeouts on the season, respectively. The Badgers and likely starter in the circle, Gabi Salo, can capitalize on this vulnerability when they face Alabama.
For Wisconsin, Katie Keller and Kayla Konwent are expected to continue their dominance, as the two lead the team in batting average at .357 and .348, respectively. Freshman Rylie Crane will also look to extend her hot streak after going 6-8 in last weekend’s Hoosier Classic.
In the circle, Salo will aim to build upon her strong showing last weekend, where she recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts against Purdue Fort Wayne, significantly contributing to her 0.69 ERA.
The 2023 Badgers will look to improve upon last year’s 30-21 season that ended against No. 14 Florida in the Gainesville Regional. Already they are showing progress, handing two resounding defeats to Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten challenge who they narrowly defeated in the first round of last year’s tournament, 7-6, to survive elimination.
The Bevo Classic will begin on Friday, March 10, with Wisconsin playing their first game against Texas State at 11 a.m. CT.
Annika Bereny is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in state news and politics reporting. Follow her on Twitter at @annikabereny.