The University of Wisconsin softball team won 21 games last season and at the time, Melanie Cross was playing softball at Cienega High School in Vail, Arizona. Now the freshman catcher is a starter for Wisconsin and the Badgers have already surpassed their win total from last season.

At this point in the season, after the team’s sweep of in-state rival UW-Green Bay, Cross owns a .295 batting average, seven doubles, six home runs and 30 RBIs, while the Badgers made huge strides this season to reach a 26-19-1 record.

Being a freshman did not dissuade Cross from limiting herself in what she could achieve in her debut season. The catcher would not be content with simply being on the team, and would go on to achieve many of the goals she set for herself.

“My big goal was to be a starter,” Cross said. “As the season progressed, I set more little goals for myself which was to be a Big Ten Freshman of the Week. And then just to contribute to our team goals, as well.”

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Cross started the first game of the season in the catcher’s position and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the week of March 20, where she batted .500 (7-for-14) and collected nine hits, eight runs and five RBIs in just five games.

The start of Cross’ career began when she discovered she earned the starting catcher job as a first-year player, and she has enjoyed the opportunity.

“I was really excited,” Cross said. “I put in a lot of hard work in the fall and I’m glad that it paid off, and it’s been great being a starter as a freshman.”

The contribution to the team pleases Cross, but she says the support of her teammates and coaching staff plays a major role in her success this season.

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Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy said Cross has exceeded expectations, especially because of how difficult it can be for someone in her position to achieve in this sport both offensively and defensively.

“She’s just having a great freshman year,” Healy said. “I think it’s really hard to step in as a young player and catch and then to hit in some clutch parts of the lineup and she’s been able to do both. It’s been fun to watch her.”

In a season of many highlights for Cross, the head coach remains most impressed with her performance in the Badgers’ three-game series against Ohio State the weekend of April 1. Cross homered three times in three games, including a walk-off three-run home run in game one and collected eight RBIs in the series.

With an abundance of success coming from Cross this season, Healy hopes Cross can continue to grow as a player and build off of her remarkable rookie season.

“I think she’s got a ton of room to grow,” Healy said. “I think this is definitely eye opening for her. She’s got the ability to be a really scary hitter. She’s got a lot of work ahead of her, but I think she’s up for the challenge.”