The Wisconsin Badgers softball team (20-10, 7-2) outclassed the Purdue Boilermakers (17-22, 2-9) in a three-game sweep this weekend.
Wisconsin’s pitching staff, highlighted by Maddie Schwartz’s Friday no-hitter, came one out from a weekend-long shutout. That, combined with 19 total runs from the offense, helped the Badgers overpower Purdue and keep pace in the Big Ten standings.
Friday | 7-0 W
Schwartz was perfect through five innings while Wisconsin tried to figure out Boilermaker starter Madi Elish, who entered with a pedestrian 3.86 ERA. The Badgers managed just one hit and two baserunners in the first four frames but finally got to Elish (L, 6-2) in the fifth. Rylie Crane reached on an error before Peyton Bannon doubled, then another infield miscue allowed both to score. Molly Schlosser made it 4-0 with a two-run triple and scored on Katie Keller’s sacrifice fly.
Kayla Konwent extended the lead with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. With Schwartz in the circle, though, one run would’ve been plenty for Wisconsin, let alone seven. The only blemishes on Schwartz’s statline were a sixth-inning walk and a seventh-inning baserunner, who reached on Crane’s error.
Schwartz (W, 6-7) hurled the 11th no-hitter in program history with a remarkably efficient performance, never throwing more than 14 pitches in an inning. She struck out only three, relying instead on the pitch-to-contact approach which has made her a force during her Wisconsin career.
After adjusting to a lighter workload and more relief appearances in 2023 while Paytn Monticelli, Gabi Salo and Tessa Magnanimo pitched — and excelled — more regularly, Schwartz proved her effectiveness hasn’t waned.
Saturday | 7-0 W
The Badgers carried the momentum into Game 2 of the series with a pair of first-inning runs. Keller’s speed — and value as a leadoff hitter — was on full display as she walked, advanced to third on Konwent’s single and scored on Brooke Kuffel’s sacrifice fly. The pop to right appeared too shallow for Keller to score, but she got a great jump and narrowly avoided the tag at home.
Unlike Friday’s, this 7-0 victory involved some stress for Magnanimo and Wisconsin. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Purdue in the first inning, but Magnanimo got a swinging strikeout to escape the jam. The Boilermakers got a runner in scoring position in the second and fifth innings, too, ultimately leaving both stranded.
Christaana Angelopulos pulled a pitch to right-center for her second home run in as many weekends. Konwent didn’t record an out all afternoon, going 2-for-2 with two singles, a pair of walks and a run.
Magnanimo (W, 4-1) threw her third complete-game victory in her last four outings, dating back to March 31. She tallied six strikeouts in this shutout, yielding six hits and two walks. A 2.87 ERA through 39 innings is a testament to Magnanimo’s success in 2023, and that the mark is fourth among Badger pitchers confirms how deep and dominant Wisconsin’s staff is. It’s often a mystery who will start each game, but it hasn’t mattered much.
Sunday | 5-1 W
Schwartz (W, 7-7) was nearly as good in the series finale as she was Friday. She allowed three hits in 6.1 shutout frames but did struggle with control at times, throwing only 36 of 61 pitches for strikes and hitting three batters.
Her afternoon actually included two appearances. Salo entered with a 5-0 lead to begin the seventh, and she allowed a run on three hits while recording two outs. Schwartz then returned to the circle and induced a groundout to end the game — the right-hander has been a starter and reliever during her illustrious career, but doing both in one game was a new experience.
Wisconsin’s offense, meanwhile, applied pressure throughout the Sunday afternoon victory. Kuffel got the scoring started with a first-inning RBI single. The Badgers scored twice in the second on singles by Konwent and Keller, then again in the third and fourth innings. Once again, the lineup provided ample run support for Wisconsin’s stingy pitching staff.
A conference contender
The 13.1 innings of scoreless work lowered Schwartz’s ERA to an even 2.00 and her WHIP to 1.00. Schwartz has thrown 19 consecutive innings versus conference opponents without allowing an earned run and now boasts a 1.12 ERA in 25 innings of Big Ten play.
Magnanimo leads the staff with 26.2 Big Ten innings. Salo and Monticelli, interestingly, have only pitched seven and 3.1 innings, respectively, since the conference schedule began. The latter’s most recent appearance came March 24 at Michigan State — it’s unclear whether there’s a clear reason for Monticelli’s absence, or if she’s just taking a backseat role to Wisconsin’s more experienced arms.
Wisconsin’s excellent pitching within the conference has been encouraging, although it’s worth noting the opponents thus far — Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue — are three of the worst Big Ten teams. Schwartz and co. figure to regress between now and the Big Ten Tournament as the competition heightens.
Konwent’s bat has been as dependable as any during her five-year career, and 2023 is no exception. A six-hit weekend at Purdue boosted her slash line to .373/.523/.723, and she’s on pace for 12 regular-season home runs after hitting 10 last year.
Skylar Sirdashney has slumped badly after her early-season breakout. The third baseman has dropped in the lineup during a 1-for-25 stretch dating back to March 24. Sirdashney’s average has dropped from .328 to .247 in the eight-game span, but she’ll likely remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
A 7-2 conference record places Wisconsin behind only Northwestern (9-1) and Indiana (9-2) in the Big Ten. With Northwestern coming to town for three games this weekend, the Badgers can confirm their status as one of the conference’s top teams.
The Wildcats have been excellent in 2023, but Wisconsin’s consistent mix of dominant pitching and offensive production should make for a highly competitive series. First, however, the Badgers host DePaul on Tuesday and St. Thomas for a Wednesday double-header.