The University of Wisconsin softball team (17-2) touched down in Tempe, Arizona last weekend for the Sun Devil Classic to face some of their toughest competition this season.
But the Badgers were unfazed by their intimidating opponents and were able to extend their win streak to 11, adding yet another victory over Princeton in their first game of the tournament, 11–2.
The Tigers are known league-wide for their lack of offense this year. With that in mind, Wisconsin did not hesitate to capitalize.
Princeton walked the first three Wisconsin batters they faced the first inning — setting up the Badgers to do what they have proved they can do best: score runs.
Caroline Hedgcock — later named Big Ten co-player of the week — pumped out a single to score Taylor Johnson and get the Badgers on the board. Next, a sacrifice fly from Kelly Welsh scored Kayla Konwent.
By just the second inning, the Badgers doubled their run production to a score of 4–0, and only two innings later, doubled it again to make it a total of eight runs in four innings.
Stephanie Lombardo and Hedgcock slammed back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning, and in the top of the fifth, Melanie Cross and Hedgcock knocked in the final three runs to secure the 11–2 run-rule victory over the Tigers.
Wisconsin would face their toughest opponent of the season in game two of the tournament in the vaunted, No. 9 Texas Longhorns (16-3).
With identical, impressive records going into the game, both teams were ready to prove their dominance. But, Wisconsin could not halt the Longhorn’s offensive firepower.
In just the third inning, the Badgers found themselves down 5–0, out of rhythm and unable to figure out dominant Longhorn pitcher Brooke Bolinger.
Wisconsin watched its eleven-game winning streak shatter.
Bolinger held the Badger offense to only four hits and struck out a season-high of ten batters. Had Texas exposed a weakness in Wisconsin’s consistent offense? There was no time to ponder.
Less than 24 hours later, Wisconsin would face the Longhorns yet again — this time seeking redemption.
Wisconsin’s defense was fired up and nearly flawless behind its pitching trio of Haley Hestekin, Maddie Schwartz and Kaitlyn Menz.
The Badgers annihilated the Longhorns’ seven-run-per-game average, holding them to an embarrassing one run heading into the bottom of the ninth.
But the Texas defense also came to play and held the Badgers scoreless heading into that same inning.
All eyes turned to senior Melanie Cross. Back in her home state and notorious for leading the Badgers in batting average, if anyone was going to lead this Wisconsin team to a victory, it would be Cross.
Konwent and Cross slammed back-to-back singles to finally ignite the Badger offense in the top of the ninth.
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Johnson would cross the plate as a result and a follow-up double from Hedgcock would bring in Cross as well. Freshman Jolie Fish would then lay down a flawless sacrifice bunt to score pinch-runner Tyra Turner.
Wisconsin walked away with an upset victory over the Longhorns with a final score of 3–1 with only their third win against Texas in program history.
Wisconsin would carry this momentum and make history yet again with their first ever victory over Arizona State in the very next game.
The Badgers did not hesitate to rack up runs in the first inning — bringing in three runs off two doubles and, to no surprise, another home run from Hedgcock.
In the second inning, Ally Miklesh pounded a clutch double to bring in Fish. Konwent would bring in the final two runs of the game in the third, and the Badgers walked away with a 5–1 victory over No. 15 Arizona State on their home field.
Wisconsin took down Princeton yet again in true Badger fashion with a slew of hits, runs, steals and strikeouts Sunday. The Badgers struggled a bit at the plate but still managed to outhit Princeton 6–3.
Schwartz secured the win from the circle with a career high of four strikeouts, no walks, two hits and one run.
Hedgcock was the highlight of the Sun Devil Classic with six hits, nine RBIs and two homers in just four games.
Wisconsin walked away with not only an improvement in their record but the team jumped into the ESPN/USA Softball Poll at No. 20 — the highest ranking in program history. The Badgers are back in action at the USF Tournament next weekend.