Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Softball: Wisconsin enters 2024 with new look, chemistry among roster

Veteran returners, standout newcomers, tough schedule highlights season for Badgers
Krissy Birdsall

The beginning of the month of February marks the start of the annual softball season throughout the NCAA and at the University of Wisconsin. Head coach Yvette Healy is entering her 14th season at the helm of the Badgers’ softball program — beginning 2024 with a career record of 389-257-1 while donning the red and white.

With a majority of UW’s athletic teams achieving success, the softball group is primed to make a similar run throughout the season.

The program has kept a low profile though, which may play to their favor.


Many experts and insiders will know that the Badgers will be without powerful bats in graduates Kayla Konwent and Katie Keller. Those two repped the top of the order for a majority of last year, and accounted for 41 of UW’s 111 extra base hits.

They will also look to the departed arms in both graduated Maddie Schwartz — the bonafide ace of the 2023 season — and true freshman Paytn Monticelli, who’s now a member of the University of Oklahoma’s program.

It all points to a rebuild year for the Badgers, but not for the players.

“I think everyone on this team has potential to surprise people, which I think is really cool,” outfielder Peyton Bannon said about the team dynamic heading into 2024. “We’re just really excited to get started.”

UW’s offseason competition has elevated the level of their play, according to Bannon. It’s a quality mix of upperclassmen and newcomers that have a new chemistry.

The Badgers strongest core of returners resides in the outfield, as Bannon is joined by fellow senior Molly Schlosser and junior Brooke Kuffel — all of which played prominent roles on last year’s team.

Bannon led the team in stolen bases with 10, and Kuffel provided power from the right side of the plate with four home runs. Schlosser—the left-hander—really hit her stride late in the season from the bottom of the order. The Oconomowoc native ended her season with a home run in the Big Ten Tournament down in Champaign, Illinois—creating some momentum into the 2024 season.

“Honestly, just trusting what you can do at the plate is definitely the biggest thing for us,” Bannon said about the outfielders, all of which return the highest slugging percentages to the team from last year. “I think it’s going to go really well this year.”

Similarly, the infield returns a few familiar faces in shortstop Ellie Hubbard, second baseman Rylie Crane and third baseman Skylar Sirdashney — each of which coming off of a solid season both defensively and offensively.

Freshman Paige Miller — an infielder — enters her first season at UW with numerous accolades, as she dominated the Wisconsin high school softball scene at Kaukauna High School. She won three straight state championships as a member of the Galloping Ghosts, and now brings her talents to Goodman Diamond for an entire season.

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While the infield lost Keller’s presence, they are getting a boost with the return of graduate student Fiona Girardot, who missed the entirety of last season due to injury. Before that though, Girardot was one of the most consistent players in the program on the offensive end — posting a .324 batting average in her sophomore and junior seasons.

Her bat and glove returns to the lineup in 2024, as she learned a ton about the game — from a different perspective — after having to sit out during the last year.

“So last year, I watched a lot of the games from behind home plate, so just watching Keller’s and Konwent’s at bats, I felt that I learned a lot from watching how they went through their pitches,” Girardot said about her learning experience from watching the two graduates last season. “…Especially from behind home plate, you can see how pitches move back there, so I definitely picked up on a few things.”

Learning and experience continue to be a theme for this group, as the same can be said for the pitching staff. Graduate student Tessa Magnanimo is in her fifth year, and looking to excel in a bigger role this season. She is paired with right-hander Gabi Salo, who put up quality numbers last season in 46.1 innings of action.

Salo posted a 1.81 ERA mostly due to her strikeout-to-walk ratio, which finished at 36:5. It was an impressive feat, as the hard-throwing pitcher will look to maintain that success with a heavier workload in 2024.

Both arms, and the rest of the pitching staff, will have a new face behind the dish after former catcher Christaana Angelopoulos left for graduation. Over the offseason, UW landed University of Northern Iowa transfer Emmy Wells—a celebrated player who tore up the Missouri Valley Conference.

Wells, standing at 6-foot-0, earned the 2022 MVC Player of the Year and MVC Defensive Player of the Year for her two-way prowess on the diamond. Unfortunately for the star athlete, she ran into injury problems that sidelined her for the entirety of last season.

She is officially back and ready to go — bringing in a total of 25 home runs in 97 games — which is rare for the catcher position. Wells also rounds out a class of quality newcomers to UW’s program.

“The freshmen class and the transfers, they just adjusted to the way we do things so easily,” Bannon said — praising their work ethic off the field as well. “Just from the moment we all got here, we all just clicked right away honestly.”

Eventful winter break provides excitement for Wisconsin athletics

The roster bodes well for a difficult start to the season, as the Badgers travel around the nation to face some of the top teams in the NCAA preseason rankings.

Their first test begins at the Clearwater Invitational in Florida — one of, if not the, top tournaments in the NCAA softball season. It will be there where UW is tasked with facing four ranked teams—including No. 6 University of Georgia and No. 9 Oklahoma State University.

The week after that, UW heads west to Cathedral City, California, to play in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. They match up against the No. 1 ranked team in the land in Oklahoma University — in addition to playing six games in three days. Then, they will play the University of Utah three times over the course of two separate tournaments — a team that made an appearance at the Women’s College World Series last season.

It’s a grind of a non-conference schedule, but the Badgers feel prepared and confident heading into it.

“We have a very athletic and versatile team, and I think it just kind of comes down to, honestly, just living in the moment and taking it game by game,” Bannon said. “We’ve talked a lot about the ‘Prove ‘Em Wrong’ mentality.”

The tournament portion of the schedule moves quickly by playing multiple games in a few days time. UW will play in five of them before beginning their Big Ten conference schedule.

A strong non-conference slate will provide experiences and struggles for this group, ultimately better preparing them for the latter half of the season when they make a push toward the NCAA Tournament come May.

The Badgers have already completed the Kajikawa Classic down in Arizona, and now set their sights on the Clearwater Invitational — beginning Feb. 15.

“I think just getting going and playing with this group of girls, I’m really excited for,” Bannon said. “I seriously love this team, and all of us get along so well, but we also push each other to get better every day, and I think it’s just a really cool dynamic that we have.”

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