The University of Wisconsin softball team concluded an incredibly successful tournament in Florida over the weekend with an overall record of 8-1 and a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor for pitcher Kaitlyn Menz.

The start of the season is the best for the team in more than three years and gives Menz the first Badger Freshman of the Week honor since March of last season.

The honor was certainly no fluke as the Iowa native finished the weekend with an overall earned run average of 1.14 and 28 strikeouts in Badger wins over the No. 20 University of South Florida, Binghamton University, Saint Joseph’s University and Hofstra University. Menz is one of just five freshmen in a predominantly upperclassman unit that is on a mission just two weekends into the year.

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The highly touted pitcher’s emergence is good news for a Wisconsin team that needs just a few extra pieces to overcome to end result of last season — a loss to Indiana University in the first round of the Big Ten tournament and being left out of the NCAA tournament.

With a relatively weak conference schedule approaching, nonconference wins from the mound of a first-year player are just what could put the Badgers in contention for the tournament in a few months.

Despite suffering the team’s first loss of the season to No. 16 James Madison University on Sunday, the 7-0 record until that point was the best start in school history and came in large part from players like Menz. The freshman has now recorded four complete games, and will be a valuable addition to a bullpen with a wealth of experience to help her along the way.

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The Badgers’ nonconference road will only get harder and farther away from Madison, however, as they stay in Florida for five games in the Sheraton Invitational. The team then travels to Houston for five games and then Fort Collins, Colorado, for five games.

In fact, Wisconsin doesn’t return home until the end of March for a three-game series with Nebraska University.

The games against Florida International University kick off Friday in Fort Myers, Florida, at 8 a.m. CT.